This semester, Central Alabama Community College (CACC) opened its doors for face-to-face learning for the first time this academic year. Now newly-appointed president Jeff Lynn is looking for ways to open CACC's doors to the community.
In an interview with Alexander City Chamber of Commerce president Ed Collari last fall, Lynn, then-interim president, said CACC had "missed the mark" on community engagement.
Earlier this month, Alabama Community College System appointed Lynn president of CACC, which will take effect March 1. With new COVID-19 cases in Alabama continuing to decline, Lynn elaborated on his goals for community.
"I think it's our role and responsibility as a college to really connect with all our stakeholders," Lynn said. "They include our community partners."
Community partners could refer to the local industry that may hire from the college, local government and the local school systems.
"Most important, really, is our K-12 partners because that's the biggest feeder," Lynn said. "We've really got to make sure that we have the strongest relationships with all our stakeholders and make sure we're listening to their needs as well."
For high school students, CACC offers a dual enrollment program, in which students can earn community college credits alongside their high school degree. After graduating, many continue to pursue their associate's degree at CACC.
A second category of community partners, Lynn said, is the community at large who may be interested in attending a play, concert, lecture or sporting event. At present, Lynn finds that engagement to be lacking.
"We've got to create that sense that they could come to our colleges and I think that's been missing for years," he said. "I want to bring that back to Central Alabama Community College."
CACC is currently in the middle of theater renovations at its Alex City campus, which Lynn said has not been used in years. He's also hoping to draw in spectators for their spring sports.
"We have sporting events we have great teams and we want to get the community to be able to come out — with COVID we want to be COVID-safe obviously — and watch our kids play," he said. "We've had some phenomenal seasons in the past."
Another goal of Lynn's is to tempt new industry into the area by meeting their human capital needs.
Lynn chairs the Lake Martin Economic Development Alliance's workforce committee, a new committee designed to get local talent up to speed with some of the area's high-growth industries. For Tallapoosa and Coosa counties, that includes advanced manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality and construction, Lynn said.
"The number one reason that a company would want to locate in a certain area — there's incentives coming from the state of course — but the biggest challenge for a company, regardless of industry sector, is the workforce," Lynn said.
Lynn wants CACC to be able to meet that workforce demand.
"That's something that really has been needed awhile for CACC and I think that's something that we can deliver," he said.
One career program the college is considering is a hospitality track, taking advantage of the Lake Martin tourism industry that's exploded in the last decade. Students could earn hospitality credits alongside their high school degree, continue the program at CACC alongside work experience at Lake Martin and then transfer to Auburn University, which offers bachelor's, master's and now PhDs in hospitality.
"That's a great way to feed that market and also bring back talent once they get their terminal degree," Lynn said.