Welding together education at the Capps Center
By Mark H. Stowers
Photography by Roy Meeks
As a farm boy following his father, Todd Donald learned the ways of the farm—getting up early and working hard. When his dad’s career turned toward welding, the same regiment applied. Donald took those lessons and years of welding experience and put them into education where he taught in South Alabama. And when he got the call to come to the Delta to run Mississippi Delta Community College’s Capps Center in Indianola, he knew just what to do.
“I was mostly raised in Atmore, Alabama—about an hour northeast of Mobile,” Donald says.
The Troy University graduate has a bachelors in Education and a masters’ in Education from the University of South Alabama. Donald began working as an educator teaching welding at an Alabama high school in Birmingham.
“I had a community college contact me and we had the same industry partner,” he says. “They wanted to test their students in my shop. As a result of that, the instructor got to know me pretty good. Then he got called down to Mobile to start the Workforce Welding program. Then I got called to take his place at the community college in Opelika. A few more months went by and they called me down to help him down in Mobile. After about eight months he wanted to go home and they named me director.”
Donald taught all aspects of welding mostly for shipyards but has placed students in just about every industry that relies on welding.
“We did aluminum welding for shipyards and then Flux Cored Arc Welding and some stick for the rest of the yards. Then grew that into not only welding but ship fitting, pipe fitting and pipe welding. Before we knew it, every 10 weeks we had 50-60 people coming in and 30-40 completing it. It was a tremendous impact as far as craftsman in the area.”
The classes ran from 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. to match the workforce hours they’d be filling.
After working for the Alabama governor’s office leading Workforce Development, Donald was pried away and asked to bring that knowledge and skill to the Mississippi Delta.
“I said ‘sure, but where are we talking about?’” he says with a laugh. “I ran that program for six or seven years.”
Donald grew up and got his first taste of farming with his father.
“We had a farm and a farm store. Coming here wasn’t a surprise but took me back to my childhood—lots of fields and a lot of animals. We grew soybeans and corn primarily,” he says. “I didn’t get into construction until we lost the farm and the farm store. My dad went to Peru and then got on a construction crew in Birmingham. I would go over there with him when I was about 14 and did it every summer after that and then some.”
A cousin got him a job with the metal fabrication industry and his welding career was born. These days, Donald works on the business end of the school but does find a few minutes to get in the classroom from time to time.
“I step in there from time to time and give them my two cents then step out,” he says.
But as the director, Donald keeps his finger on the pulse of the industries that need his trained students.
“The important thing is to find out what the demand is. We’ve got the research done so now we create and implement the programs and I make sure we stay focused on what the needs are. I’m in constant communication with the industry and I make sure our people make as quick a response to those needs. We don’t have a particular script to go by. If we have to revamp a program, we will do that. If it means sticking with the same program for three or four years, then we do that.”
The Capps Center programs run a variety of lengths depending on the industry—from 10 weeks up to 16 weeks. There are three project managers as well as administration staff that work with Donald.
The Donald family has made Arkansas their home with plenty of acres for horses and a barn for the wife and kids.
“We have some livestock. I’ve got a house and barn and 12 acres,” he says.
Even though he grew up in South Alabama, Donald spends a majority of his time hunting or on the road with his daughter and horse competitions and doesn’t come down on the Roll Tide or War Eagle bandwagons. But with his work in the Delta, there will be plenty of Hotty Toddy and Hail State folks vying for his attention. But for now he’s the Head Trojan at the Indianola campus.
The MDCC Charles W. Capps Jr. Technology Center, a division of Mississippi Delta Community College, provides customized training, education, and skills improvement to new and existing businesses and industries within the Mississippi Delta Community College service area. Consisting of 30,000 square feet, the Capps Center houses an office wing, a seminar room, food preparation area, and four high bay areas that occupy a total of 8,000 square feet of training space for mechanical, electrical, process and assembly skills.
Classroom space, three computer labs, and a distance learning lab complete the accommodations available in the Capps Center. The Center opened in 2001 and the location places the Capps Center at the geographical center of the seven county service area of Mississippi Delta Community College. The center is named after Cleveland native and longtime appropriations chairman of the House of Representatives Charles W. Capps Jr.