Jamie Wilkerson, Precision Manufacturing and Machining Technology instructor at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jackson County Campus, was recently awarded $10,000 by the Gene Haas Foundation to benefit students in her program. Wilkerson, who applied for the grant, encouraged other instructors to do the same.
“There are funds out there to help us expand our programs and support our students. Networking with other instructors and with our industry partners helps us locate them,” Wilkerson said. “This grant is especially for the students, so we had to decide what to provide. Included for students this year is tuition assistance and help covering book fees as well as providing toolboxes for each of them with some of the basic tools they will need to work.”
Wilkerson said that students are expected to provide their own basic tools by most employers and that those tools can be quite expensive. For first-time workers in precision manufacturing, covering the cost of getting started is often difficult.
“We spent probably $900 on each toolbox last year and provided high-end, name-brand tools for them to use,” she said. “We want for the tools to last. Some of the tools included were a set of 0″-12″ Starrett dial calipers, 0″-1″ indicators, 0″-1″ and 1″-2″ micrometers, and a few other useful items including a small toolbox to tote them in.”
This year, Wilkerson said students will be able to choose some of the tools in their kits.
“Jamie regularly goes above and beyond in supporting her students and in providing them with opportunities for success in college and after they graduate,” said Amanda Magee, Chair of the School of Manufacturing, Maritime, and Transportation at the Jackson County Campus. “Seeking out grants and scholarships like this one from the Gene Haas Foundation to supplement what we do in our career and technical programs is a great way to help our students get ahead. I commend Jamie for thinking outside the box.”
Dr. Brad Bailey, Dean of Teaching and Learning at the Jackson County Campus, said that innovative ideas like the one Wilkerson pursued positively impacts students and the South Mississippi economy. “MGCCC prides itself on job placement for our Career & Technical Education students,” he said. “Our CTE programs across the college average about 92 percent in job placement. Jamie’s program is always at or near 100 percent. They often have job offers well before they finish the program. That is a testament to Jamie’s dedication to her students and to her craft. By providing tools to the students, it removes a large barrier to job attainment. This $10,000 grant is significant, as it has an immediate and lifelong impact on our students.”
The Gene Haas Foundation was established in 1999, by Gene Haas, founder and owner of Haas Automation, Inc., to support the needs of the local community. Seeing a growing need for skilled manufacturing employees in the industry, the Foundation expanded its mission to include support for manufacturing training programs throughout North America and beyond. By providing scholarship grants, sponsoring individual and team competitions, and partnering with the very best training programs in the world, the Foundation helps expand the availability of high-quality manufacturing technology training worldwide. In 2022, the Gene Haas Foundation provided more than $27 million in grants, bringing the total since inception to more than $175 million.