Image Credit: Lance Griffin/Dothan Eagle
Roby Weekly Column: Communities Make Progress on Career Tech
With February being National Career and Technical Education Month, last week I visited two emerging career tech programs in different corners of Alabama’s 2nd District.
Career tech programs help prepare students for a smooth transition from the classroom to the workplace, empower young men and women from all backgrounds to find good jobs, and support local economies throughout Alabama – all at the same time. Alabama is home to a solid network of community colleges, industries and facility partnerships that help provide skills training to prepare our students for in-demand jobs.
At Tallassee High School, in northeast Elmore County, administrators are making big strides to build a program that serves the growing needs of local students. Keith McNaughton, Career Tech Director for Tallassee City Schools, took me on a tour of their growing facilities. They’ve recently acquired a storefront near the stadium where students will soon be able to take dual-enrollment classes to earn college credit. There is also a machine shop where students now have access to the kind of hands-on training they can put to use in highly-skilled, good-paying manufacturing jobs.
Up until now, students in Tallassee have had to take a bus 30 minutes away to Wetumpka or even an hour away to Trenholm State in Montgomery to access these career tech courses. Now, thanks to the hard work of Tallassee’s leaders and educators, students are beginning to access those programs in their hometown.
At Geneva High School, down in the Wiregrass, local and state leaders formed a unique partnership to build a one-of-a-kind career tech program. The Alabama National Guard has agreed to allow its local armory to serve as the area’s career tech center, offering students access to training in high-demand skills, including automotive technology, welding, aviation maintenance and health science. The city and county schools are partnering with Lurleen B. Wallace Community College and Enterprise State to offer the dual-enrollment courses.
Geneva’s program will prove invaluable for students as they prepare for their careers and for the community marketing itself for industrial recruitment. Having access to a skilled workforce is a primary factor for companies seeking locations for new facilities.
I believe Geneva’s career tech efforts could serve as a model for other parts of the state, but it would not be happening without the leadership State Rep. Donnie Chesteen, who has worked tirelessly to bring state and local resources to bear to fill this need.
For too long, there has been a stigma attached to not completing an academic degree at a four-year university. That’s a shame because, with the right training and certification, many workers can land great-paying jobs right off the bat without all the college loan debt to pay off. The good news is that stigma is beginning to change. I’ve appreciated the State of Alabama’s partnership with Mike Rowe, known for his “Dirty Jobs” show on the Discovery Channel, encouraging students to pursue rewarding careers in the trades.