Communiversity event emphasizes the link between industry, education, and MSU-led initiatives

Carver Middleton, research engineer from MSU Athlete Engineering and Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, on the right side, demonstrates the use of cobots, which are commonly used in manufacturing facilities. MSU partnered with EMCC to create an advanced manufacturing training facility at EMCC’s Communiversity, the AiM UP training laboratory. (Photo by Jonah Holland)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Tuesday [Dec. 12] event at East Mississippi Community College’s Communiversity highlighted the continued alignment of industry needs and educational opportunities, as well as multiple initiatives led by Mississippi State University.

The gathering brought together leaders from prominent Mississippi industries, workforce development, K-12 education, community colleges and four-year universities to concentrate on strategies to enhance Mississippi’s advanced manufacturing workforce. The event was hosted by FANUC, a major manufacturer of robots used in industrial settings.

One common topic discussed by the speakers was the necessity of presenting individuals with a contemporary and more accurate understanding of manufacturing jobs. Instead of perceiving them as monotonous assembly line tasks, current manufacturing jobs typically involve the operation of advanced machines.

“Today’s manufacturing is high-tech, high-paying, and capable of providing a living wage,” stated Joe Baldiga, manager for FANUC America’s education and workforce development programs.

Participants taking part in a panel discussion seated at a table in front of a large screen
A panel comprising representatives from industry, academia, and community college partners discusses how educational partnerships are assisting industry in recruiting and training a manufacturing workforce. (Photo by Jonah Holland)

Attendees had the opportunity to visit the Communiversity’s training facilities for machining and engineering/technical drafting. Additional facilities are also being established within the Communiversity as part of two initiatives led by MSU: AiM UP (Advancements in Manufacturing Upskilling Program) and the Mississippi Advanced Composites Institute Training Center (MAC). AiM UP is a program funded by the Department of Labor, Department of Defense, and AccelerateMS that aims to strengthen Mississippi’s industrial base by establishing training centers at community colleges across the state, allowing university students to access the equipment used in advanced manufacturing facilities. Led by MSU’s Advanced Composites Institute, the MAC provides training in composites manufacturing on an industrial scale, serving the defense and aerospace industries that utilize composite materials.

Reuben Burch, MSU’s associate vice president for research, expressed his vision for the AiM UP program and other similar initiatives as the entities operating independently but competing collectively to position Mississippi for success in the present and future manufacturing landscape.

“As a state, we have made significant progress and positioned ourselves strongly to not only compete but also become a model for other advanced manufacturing training programs,” Burch said. “By expanding our workforce evenly across the state and delivering relevant training that meets industry needs, we can become even more competitive.”

Industry representatives from organizations like PACCAR Engine Company and Nissan North America shared how they collaborate with K-12 schools and community colleges to ensure that students in career and technical programs receive education that is applicable in today’s job market. Ray Hollis, EMCC’s workforce business outreach and training manager, highlighted that the Communiversity’s training facilities are designed to be adaptable to changing industry demands. He added that their ultimate goal is to raise awareness about the increasing career opportunities in manufacturing.

“We want people to be inspired,” Hollis said. “When we give people an opportunity, they will seize it.”