MGCCC unveils high-tech tool to train future crane operators

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is joining forces with the state and Ingalls Shipbuilding to help put more people to work. On Tuesday, the college unveiled its latest high-tech tool to train students for jobs that involve a lot of heavy lifting.

The junior college just received a $1 million grant to purchase a Crane Training Simulator. It's the first of its kind in Mississippi.

The equipment looked more like an arcade game than a college training station. The new Crane Training Simulator is equipped with wide screens, switches, and motions. It puts students in the driver's seat of a virtual heavy-lift crane.

"It is so realistic. It's just like you're sitting in a real thing," said William Watts, Training Instructor for MGCCC and Ingalls Shipbuilding.

The JC campus of MGCCC will use the high-tech tool as part of its workforce development program. The college and the Mississippi Department for Employment Security worked together to obtain a $1 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to pay for the simulator, trailer, and instructor training.

"The focus is for people to have a job and being a crane operator is a very well-paying job. Demands are good on the coast and across the state and some other areas too. It's a good investment for Mississippi," said Stan McMorris, MDES Deputy Executive Director.

"It's the only one in Mississippi," he added.

The crane simulator is a self-contained classroom on wheels. That means it can be moved to Ingalls for on-site training. Employees can learn how to lift tons of ship sections and other materials, without tying up a real crane.

Another major benefit is safety. For instance, instructors can create dangerous scenarios.

"If I want to put him at nighttime or I want to put him with it raining, if it's real foggy, if it's even snowing," said Watts.

Students learn what can happen if their load is too heavy. Watts demonstrated how the meter moves to the red zone, and caused the windshield to crack.

"That lets me know that we had a fatality or a major damage to the crane," said Watts.

Trainees can make mistakes without getting hurt.

"If you're in real life and this happens, obviously we have a $250,000 piece of equipment that is damaged verses now. This is virtual reality. It's just absolutely amazing," said Watts.

The non-credit classes will begin in about a month. It will start with Ingalls employees. The college will offer training to interested applicants through the WIN Job Centers.

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