Northwest Career-Technical students jumpstart careers with work-based learning

    “It’s a win-win situation,” Northwest Mississippi Community College Work-Based Learning Coordinator, Petrecia Williams, says. “That’s just all there is to it. The winners in this scenario are the students, the employees and the instructors.”

    Northwest’s Work-Based Learning (WBL) program is designed for students enrolled in a career or technical program and employed in a parallel workplace environment for a minimum of 15 hours per week. Students are able to earn three semester credit hours per semester by working a total number of 135 hours throughout the semester. Six hours of WBL credit may be applied as technical electives and counted toward the graduation requirements of the career-technical course. Presently, there are 36 students enrolled in the program, Williams said.

    James Richard “Mac” McDonald of Hernando, who is studying Precision Manufacturing and Machining Technology (PMMT) at Northwest, is working on completing his second WBL course. He was hired through a temporary agency in the Finishing Department at Smith and Nephew. He says that the skills he is learning in machining come in handy with his job. “There are measurement tools that I use there that we use in our labs and are also used in machining,” McDonald said.

    He will start as a full-time employee at Smith and Nephew on April 22. He has one more year in the PMMT program at Northwest and will continue earning credits through the WBL program. “My team leader at Smith and Nephew is very helpful and willing to work with me. He lets me adjust my hours as needed with school, and our instructors Mr. Covington and Mr. Gilliam will let me leave when I need to in order to get to work. They are very flexible and work with me a lot,” McDonald said.

    McDonald feels that Northwest has prepared him well for this job. “I looked into other programs, and I found that Northwest was the best. It has been nothing but good for me. It’s a lot of hours, sometimes 18 hours a day between school and work. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to study, so you have to be disciplined, but it pays off in the end,” McDonald said.

    Paramedic student Brett Quick of Byhalia concurs about the long days involved, but feels it is worth it. Currently, Quick is earning WBL credits through his job at Medic One, where he is an ambulance driver. He works 24-36 hours a week outside of his classes, which include class time and clinicals. “Work-based learning gives me more hours on my college credit, helps with my GPA and provides me with an incentive to want to work and gain more experience before I graduate,” Quick said. “The program is very flexible with my work schedule and allows my box at work to be flexible with me.”

    He has a guaranteed job when he graduates in December, and says that there are usually positions available in the field of paramedics. He would like to continue his education with a bachelor’s in paramedicine, but there are no local programs available. He is exploring the option of the health administration degree through The University of Mississippi.

    “I’ve have thoroughly enjoyed the time I’ve had here. Most of the instructors are able to help me and answer questions and my whole experience has been conducive to learning,” Quick said. In addition to WBL, he has been a work-study student and worked as a student athletic trainer for the football and baseball team. “I have enjoyed all of the extra opportunities that have been given to me,” Quick said.

    Lauren Grotewell, a sophomore from Hernando, will graduate this May with her Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education Technology. Her classroom, lab and WBL experience has prepared her for her career as well. She currently works at Kaco’s Kids in Hernando. “I want to continue my education and expand on it. I want to get a business degree so I can start my own daycare,” Grotewell said. She has also found her experience with WBL to be helpful and easy to manage between her employer and Northwest. “It has been really good, and I am glad I got a chance to do it,” Grotewell said.

    Williams views WBL as a bridge between instruction and the worksite. “Students have the opportunity to practice the skills that they are being taught while they are still in the training mode. They can bring questions and concerns back to their instructors for further explanation. It is practice for the student, feedback for the instructor and provides opportunities for prospective employers to evaluate students’ capabilities,” Williams said.

    For more information on Northwest’s work-based learning programs, contact Williams at 662-562-3341 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

    Pictured: Northwest Mississippi Community College Precision Manufacturing and Machining Technology student James Richard “Mac” McDonald of Hernando is completing his second semester of Work-Based Learning. He will have completed six hours of college credit at the end of this semester. McDonald is working at Smith and Nephew, Inc. in Memphis while completing his degree. (Photo by Justin Ford)