RICHLAND – Empire Truck Sales and Stribling Equipment, who partner with Hinds Community College on the Diesel Equipment Technology Academy in Richland, have signed an agreement with the college to become the first businesses to participate in the Mississippi Apprenticeship Program.

From left, Glenn McCullough, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse, Dr. Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board, Jerry Swanson, CEO of Empire Truck Sales and Stribling Equipment and Gov. Phil Bryant (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

The program aims to develop new and diverse sponsors for registered apprenticeship and expand the state’s capacity to support them. MAP, an initiative led by Gov. Phil Bryant’s office, the Mississippi Community College Board in partnership with community colleges and their partners in business, industry and other sectors, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security and the Mississippi Development Authority, will provide resources to industries across the state to support employee on-the-job training.

Principals in the effort signed the agreement Oct. 31 at the Hinds Diesel Equipment Technology Academy in Richland. They included Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse, Jerry Swanson, president of Empire Truck Sales and Stribling Equipment, Woodrow Middleton, state director for the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship and Dr. Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board.

“It’s been a great partnership with Hinds and you see a number of the students here today as evidence of the support they’re receiving from those two companies,” Muse said during a brief program before the signing. He also noted the experienced assistance, scholarships and up-to-date equipment available to students in the program.

Bryant credited the Legislature for allocating about $50 million for workforce training programs and the U.S. Department of Labor for being a valuable partner for the MAP, specifying a “unified and cooperative federalism” between the state and the federal Cabinet department.

Students and instructors in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at Hinds Community College gather with state officials including Gov. Phil Bryant during a ceremony Oct. 31 to become part of the Mississippi Apprenticeship Program. (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

“The Mississippi Apprenticeship Program and the partnership between Empire Truck Sales, Stribling Equipment and Hinds Community College will allow individuals at these two businesses to learn real-world job skills necessary for them to be successful employees,” Bryant said.

The trucking industry, specifically the field of modern-day diesel mechanic work, was an appropriate backdrop for the signing ceremony. Gov. Phil Bryant’s father was a diesel mechanic and worked at Empire during his professional career. The host facility for the ceremony is a state-of-the-art complex where students train on the latest technology in the ever-evolving field of diesel mechanics. The accelerated career pathway allows students to earn technical and career certificates with a chance to earn a full Associate of Applied Science degree. Once in the field, diesel technicians can work their way up to certifications that pay up to $73,000 annually.

“As a workforce strategy, with on-the-job training experience, the apprentice has the opportunity to earn and learn,” Mayfield said. “And they also make connections in the workplace.”

“Everybody here is a stakeholder in this adventure,” Swanson said, crediting Dr. Chad Stocks, vice president of Workforce Development at Hinds, for his role in helping turn the college’s already vibrant partnership into Tuesday’s event. “With his leadership, this has happened and we’re very proud of it.”

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