The students of the Alexander City, Tallapoosa County and Coosa County school systems got a lecture worth their while Friday as the Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance hosted its Manufacturing Day breakfast with a presentation on student workforce.
This is the first time the annual event at Central Alabama Community College’s Betty Carol Graham Center has included students, according to director of existing industry and workforce development Sabrina Wood.
“We had scheduled and planned for 120 students to be here (Friday),” Wood said. “All of those students just like these had designated manufacturing as their interests.”
Although some couldn’t attend due to tests, students who were there got to see products from local manufacturers and speak to Central Alabama Community College students about the welding and technology programs.
“We have a lot of different products that are manufactured here locally and I think sometimes we don’t realize until we’re able to see them all spread out together and see the different types of things we have,” Wood said. “There’s plenty of jobs out there and plenty of opportunity.”
Wood challenged the students to grow in their manufacturing jobs and move up in them of they choose that career path.
The development alliance also presented Russell Dewberry, of Russell Brands, with the LMAEDA community leader of the year award. Russell Brands is currently employing 10 Benjamin Russell students who work Monday through Thursday for school credit and a paycheck.
Alabama Community College System vice chancellor of workforce and economic development Jeff Lynn was the keynote speaker and talked about bringing in students into the workforce. Lynn said about 267,000 people in Alabama work in manufacturing out of the state’s 4.9 million population.
“Manufacturing in the state of Alabama accounts for about 17.25% for all of our output,” Lynn said. “Our exports have been phenomenal. We’re really growing every year.”
Lynn said ways to increase jobs are education for adults with only high school degrees and giving those without degrees credentials and a skillset.
“For me our job is to touch every person in every county and I will not be satisfied until that’s done so there’s a lot of people we don’t reach,” Lynn said.
A development is a pilot program with Hyundai and the National Guard that reaches out to adults to expand their education.
“We taught people at night and then they got offered jobs directly with Hyundai,” Lynn said.
The community college system is also looking at electronic learning where the classes are online and those working have to show up for only labs at schools, according to Lynn.
Lynn said the community college system is also focusing on reaching to younger children with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
“If we can excite kids about STEM activities and get them to take the right classes in middle school and high school, then they’re on a journey selecting on a career they want to,” Lynn said. “We can’t do student success without understanding industry. We don’t want to pigeonhole students to go into any industry. We want them to be aware of the great industries we have to offer here in Alabama.”
The community college system is also focused on apprenticeships where students work in manufacturing during school and still get class credit and a paycheck. An office of apprenticeship was created under Alabama’s department of commerce, according to Lynn.
“We’re working with them on a daily basis,” Lynn said. “You can mentor them. You can sell them on the fact that this is a great place to work. This is such a win-win-win program.”
In addition to apprenticeships there is also Alabama Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education, which partners with students who attend community colleges, Lynn said.
The community college system is also using software to look at labor market demands to make decisions with manufacturing hires and jobs.
“Also for us to be successful we really have to utilize data to make intelligent decisions,” Lynn said. “Really for the students it’s giving you a pathway so we don’t want to offer programs and our schools that lead you to a dead end, especially for your parents to get you out of the basement.”