CAVS Extension wins regional award


Clay Walden (left), director of the MSU CAVS Extension Office, accepts the 2012 Innovator Award from Ted Abernathy, executive director of the Southern Growth Policies Board.

Mississippi State's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Extension is a major honoree of the Southern Growth Policies Board.

Based in Canton, the university's CAVS Extension office recently accepted a 2012 Innovator Award for its work with Nissan at the nearby vehicle assembly plant. The recognition specifically cited the "Enhancing On-the-Job Problem Solving" training program.

The award "honors initiatives that are improving the economy and quality of life in the South," according to SGPB.

The training program is an example of MSU's commitment to service, said Clay Walden, CAVS Extension director and a research professor at the land-grant institution.

"CAVS Extension and the university as a whole are actively engaged in the lives of Mississippians," he said. "This recent work with Nissan is a perfect example of the assistance we can provide, as well as the partnerships we develop with employers in our state."

Walden accepted the award at the SGPB annual conference in Chattanooga, Tenn. He was joined by Robert Sheely, CAVS Extension business systems and information technology manager.

The Mississippi Development Authority and Mississippi Department of Employment Security shared oversight responsibilities for the 15-month project that was competitively funded by a $660,000 federal stimulus grant administered by MDES.

To date, more than 60 percent of those who completed training have received a wage increase. In a three-year period, nearly 60 projects have been accomplished, resulting in annual savings of $2,019,000 and representing an 8:1 return on the initial investment.

"This project was the best use of stimulus funds of any project I am aware of in the nation," said MDES deputy director for communications Les Range.

CAVS Extension is a major unit of the Engagement and Outreach Service at MSU's Bagley College of Engineering, which developed and delivered the training program with CAVS Extension and Holmes Community College, whose primary service area includes central Mississippi.

In addition to more than 400 employees at Nissan's Canton facility, it provided skills training for the vehicle manufacturers' in-state suppliers and related high-growth companies.

As the training program began, an initial analysis revealed that only 5.8 percent of Mississippi's automotive workers possessed higher-order skills--a rate well short of the 10.5 percent national average. To help overcome the gap, the coalition provided instruction through a three-phase curriculum: instrumentation and diagnostics, problem-solving methodologies and teaming topics.

Bagley faculty and researchers trained students to use specialized data-gathering equipment and analysis software. CAVS Extension provided specialized problem-solving training and spawned projects, with ongoing coaching, to solve chronic "live, on-the-job" problems from students' companies.

At the same time, Holmes was helping enhance the students' communication, leadership and collaboration skills.

Jim Laird | University Relations

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