Career Tech Works: PRCC supports community’s needs through CTE programs

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Man welding outside, 2 women learning to use radiology equipment, woman cutting another woman's hair

February is Career Technical Education Month and Pearl River Community College embraces this path to a new career for many students. Different certificate and degree options are available across the three campuses: Forrest County Campus, Hancock Campus, and Poplarville Campus. 

CTE programs are growing with about 12.5 million United States high school and college students enrolled in one. These programs specialize in skilled trades, applied sciences, modern technologies, and career preparation. A key component of the programs is the use of equipment and tools students will use in their new careers.  

“At Pearl River, we work hard to ensure our CTE students have access to cutting-edge technology and work-based learning opportunities,” said Dean of Career and Technical Instruction at Forrest County Campus Dr. James David Collum. “Most importantly, we have faculty who make student success their number one priority.  

“Students leave PRCC with the necessary skills, certifications, and degrees to succeed in their chosen careers. In addition to these essential skills, students also gain a passion for their future careers that can only come from dedicated instructors. I believe this combination makes PRCC the perfect choice for someone looking to take their next step towards a new career in life.”  

Students interested in pursuing a CTE pathway have a wide range of options available. With the addition of Commercial and Residential Construction, Massage Therapy, Coding Technology, and Court Reporting, PRCC now offers more than 40 different CTE pathways across its locations. The current list of options can be found at prcc.edu/cte with links to each individual program’s information page. 

Applying for admission to PRCC is the first step, by visiting PRCC.edu/admissions. Some pathways have additional admissions requirements as listed on the program’s page. 

STEPPING INTO CAREERS AFTER GRADUATION  

Across the different disciplines, CTE graduates have a high rate of employment after completing their training or associates degree. Job placement rates for PRCC graduates across all the CTE programs have hovered around 80-85 percent over the past few years.  

“Our local business and industry workforce needs continue to grow as more technically skilled workers are required,” said Dr. Amy Townsend, Dean of Career & Technical Education for Poplarville and Hancock Campuses. “We continually strive to provide our students with the best learning environment, help them reach their incredible potential, and be that connection for the next step of their journey by linking them with business and industry partners. Career Tech Works!”  

Student learning about HVAC systems

Stepping straight into a career after graduation worked well for La’Mya LeFlore. She is currently working at Highland Community Hospital in Picayune and genuinely loves her job.  

Originally from Hattiesburg, LeFlore sought out the Medical Laboratory Technology program on the Forrest County Campus as her entry into a medical field. Working more behind the scenes with a heavy reliance on science was appealing to her. PRCC was her choice of school given the smaller class sizes and more personal connections to the instructors.  

“My CTE program of choice allowed me to immediately enter the workforce with no hesitation,” said LeFlore. “I was taught all the foundations of learning plus more that I needed to enter the work force. My instructors were very much hands on, reassuring, and helped us prepare for our boards.  

“The program also helped me get placed with a job. My teachers recommended me for my current job. I’m very glad that I decided to take the CTE program route.”  

Jasper Loftin feels similar to LeFlore. He completed the Biomedical Equipment Repair Technology program and went straight to work after graduation. He is currently an Imaging Specialist Engineer in radiology at Crothall HealthCare at Baptist Medical Center in Jackson.  

“PRCC is close to my hometown of Columbia, has a good reputation, and proved cost effective to attend,” said Loftin. “I have always enjoyed problem solving and fixing things. My current job allows me to make a difference behind the scenes in healthcare.   

“It is rewarding to know that I am making it easier for nurses and doctors to provide patient care.”   

CONTINUING THEIR EDUCATION   

Some students find themselves stacking career technical degrees or certificates to further strengthen their marketability in the workforce.   

For current dental assisting student Brienne Penton, completion of the program will lead to an application for the dental hygiene program at PRCC.   

“I knew that this dental program would allow me to obtain the basic critical knowledge and clinical experience I needed to prepare me for a career in dentistry,” said Penton. “I chose to attend PRCC because it has successful allied health programs plus you receive more thorough teaching and help from your instructors to ensure well-rounded success.”  

CTE Associates of Applied Science degrees can also lay the foundation for further studies at four-year institutions. Currently, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women (The W), and University of Southern Mississippi offer pathways for CTE graduates.  

Lauren Lee of Carriere will graduate from the Business Marketing and Management program this May. The program was chosen to give her basic marketing knowledge that can be useful to open and operate her own business in the future. Before that happens, she plans to earn her bachelor's degree in marketing at Mississippi State University.  

“I chose PRCC because it was such an affordable option for me,” said Lee. “The close distance to my family was also a plus, and it made The River a great steppingstone into independence straight after high school.”  

GROWTH IN ALLIED HEALTH PROGRAMS  

In the last few years, more attention has been paid to the healthcare system and deficiencies in staffing across the country. Many of the allied health programs at PRCC are finding a high demand for their graduates with no end to the need in sight.  

“As a result of COVID-19, many weaknesses have been exposed in our healthcare system,” said Vice President for Forrest County Center, Allied Health and Nursing Programs Dr. Jana Causey.  “Not only are we experiencing shortages in almost every healthcare category but pay has become very unstable making long term sustainability very difficult.”   

PRCC Surgical Tech student practicing surgicalinstrument set up

At the Forrest County Campus, an LPN to RN bridge program has been added to allow students to work while completing their education. Additionally, the Radiology and Surgical Technology programs have been expanded.  

“Our goal at PRCC is to provide the needed workforce to fill the gap in these shortages, as well as advocate for our students to receive the most competitive wages to keep them working locally in our community,” said Causey. “The addition of our new healthcare Simulation laboratory has been a game changer in our students’ education and we are committed to providing qualified, well-trained, and clinically prepared students to the healthcare workforce.”     

CONTACTS FOR CTE PROGRAMS 

Questions about the programs can be directed to the CTE office of the campus where they will attend. For PRCC’s Forrest County Campus, call 601-554-5539, email jcollum@prcc.edu or visit the FCC on U.S. 49 South. Hancock Campus can be reached at 228-252-7000. The Poplarville Campus can be reached at 601-403-1101. 

 For the latest news on Pearl River Community College, visit PRCC.edu and follow us on Twitter (@PRCC_Wildcats), Instagram (PRCCWILDCATS), and Facebook (@PRCCMKTG).