Pelahatchie, Multicraft International create manufacturing academy to teach CTE skills
By Emile Creel
When high school students are planning their futures, deciding between enrolling in college or entering the workforce immediately can be a hard decision for many. In Pelahatchie, where the annual median income of $30,320 is below both the state and national poverty levels, obtaining college- and career-readiness skills in high school can mean the difference between landing a job that provides a living wage or remaining on the search for a decent paycheck.
A new partnership between Multicraft International and Pelahatchie High School (PHS)—the Multicraft Advanced Manufacturing Academy—is expected to prepare the next generation of workers to compete for higher-paying jobs in the area.
“We’re investing in these kids and giving them options,” said PHS principal Bryan Marshall.
The program came about through conversations with PHS and the manufacturing company, which produces electronic and electromechanical components for automobiles, electrical, HVAC, and other systems, about the skills needed for the Rankin County workforce.
“(Multicraft CEO) Andrew Mallinson is passionate about education, and we’re seeing a gap in manufacturing skill sets, so this works for everyone. Our company provides training for current employees already, so this was a natural step to work with the high school,” said Brad Williams, Multicraft president.
Organizers see this academy as an opportunity for students of all career aspirations to see different options. Although many will choose to go straight into the workforce from this program, others will enroll in an institution of higher learning with college credits in tow because of the academy’s dual enrollment opportunities with Hinds Community College. Students begin their first year by learning the basics and then participate in an internship with Multicraft in their second year. Additionally, younger students are encouraged to join the program through a career-exploration course. Both students in the academy and career-exploration students are taught by Johnny Gandy, and he and other Multicraft staff agree the academy’s first semester went well.
“The program has absolutely been a success so far, and we are learning and growing as we go,” said Williams.
The Pilot Year
Seven first-year students followed the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) curriculum, which exposed them to safety techniques, introductions to equipment and tools, and skills in math and communication. The students spent this time learning at the high school and completed projects throughout the semester to demonstrate their knowledge.
“Our core curriculum includes basic safety, intro to hand tools, intro to power tools, materials handling, basic electricity, and more, as we develop a culture of safety for the entire program,” said Gandy. “I brought the students breakfast to celebrate 100 days without any in-class injuries.”
The program focuses on teaching advanced manufacturing, industrial maintenance skills and techniques, and construction basics. Students will learn how to operate hand tools or large equipment, such as fork lifts, which Multicraft will provide on loan, so the school doesn’t have to buy the equipment. Additionally, students will learn soft skills to help them become more employable and to prepare them for a number of career fields.
“Students must pass a written and performance test. It’s no exaggeration to say that most of the curriculum was foreign to the students,” said Gandy. “Once we completed performance tests, we built bird houses from a print. Each student had a drawing, and they measured, cut, and assembled the houses. In addition to our classroom learning, the students spent two days during the fall semester at Multicraft to see equipment and tools in action.”
After the first year of learning basic skills, the students will have the opportunity to work with Multicraft in paid summer internships. During this time, students will work in whatever area is needed at the time while researching quality control, performing time studies, and working on improvement projects. These internships will continue to build experience for students going straight into the workforce and those wanting a technical or four-year degree.
“The internships for the kids are huge. They’re being trained in these technical skills that build a foundation for wherever they go to next,” said Marshall.
Those going to college will take the dual credit they earned from the program and can complete a two-year degree in industrial maintenance or another field in one year. Those enrolling at a university will have received exposure to engineering-related ideas (quality control and supply-chain management, for example) and industry.
“We’re working with Hinds Community College for advanced training and dual credit, so the students get a head start,” said Williams.
In addition to the college credit and internship experience, students will have the opportunity to take certification assessments. These certifications, such as the Basic Manufacturing Certification from NCCER, continue to add to students’ résumés to show future employers that they have the skills needed for employment.
Preparing for Future Generations
In addition to the students that have already been recruited for the program, 43 middle school and ninth-grade students are enrolled in the career-exploration course, which will expose students to a multitude of options, including the Multicraft Academy. Gandy encourages new students to ask questions about the program and see some of the activities others completed in the first year.
“I use Odysseyware to teach about different careers and crafts, and we have guest speakers come in,” said Gandy. “We’ve also assembled precut bird houses to use some of the techniques they’ve learned about.”
“I don’t know that our pilot students knew what to expect, but the younger grades are excited for this program,” Marshall added.
Multicraft hopes to continue expanding the program for these upcoming students and advancing it by introducing concepts and additional equipment, such as a semiautomated assembly line. Additionally, the Division of Multicraft Ventures, a separate department within the company that focuses on new projects, is working with the school on other innovative opportunities, such as inviting students to the company’s office to present manufacturing ideas.
“They’ll present concepts and projects for new products, and if there’s one that makes sense for us, it could even go into production,” said Williams. “If not, students will gain valuable experience presenting and communicating their ideas to company leaders.”
“This partnership has been a dream. Multicraft is so supportive of education and we’re thankful for that,” Marshall added.