Industry representatives from the area were on hand to discuss hiring trends, career advancement opportunities and ideal candidate qualities. Similarly, the career coaches were able to ask candid questions about the work environment and how to best prepare students for a career in chemical manufacturing. Presentations and questions eventually evolved into a robust and open discussion that left all participants excited about the career opportunities available to future high school graduates.
“Educators are one of the most important aspects of our business,” said Ascend Site Director Stephen French. “It is very gratifying to have so many teachers and coaches from around our region show such an interest in getting young people started in a manufacturing career. Students are the future of our plant operations and the drivers of our economy as a whole.”
In addition to seeing the actual chemical manufacturing process during the plant tour, educators learned about an industrial culture that emphasizes safety, teamwork, innovation and new technologies. They also were given employment data, which indicates that Alabama directly supports more than 10,400 chemical manufacturing careers and that the average chemical industry worker in Alabama earns more than $82,000 per year.
Today, each Alabama school district has a designated career coach, though many who are familiar with the program say that career coaches in the state are spread too thinly – some career coaches are assigned to multiple schools and have teaching responsibilities as well. This often results in Alabama students only having access to their career coach one day per week.
George Clark is the president of Manufacture Alabama and also serves as the vice chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council and chair of the Alabama Workforce Investment Board. Clark is among those who believe the state should allocate additional funding to bolster the career coach program.
“Career coaches are such an important facet of Alabama’s K-12 system,” said Clark. “More financial resources should be made available to this program to increase its effectiveness. Industry is doing its part to invest in career coaches, and the state should follow suit. It is an investment that will pay remarkable dividends when more young Alabamians find lifelong, lucrative careers without amassing huge sums of student loan debt.”
Workforce development is routinely cited as a top impediment to growth for manufacturing companies in Alabama. More than 13 percent of Alabama’s workforce is engaged in manufacturing, which ranks Alabama fifth nationally. With a large portion of this workforce beyond or rapidly approaching retirement age, manufacturing employers are on the brink of a true crisis.
Career coaches are just one of the many ways in which Alabama is working to address the challenge of workforce development. Manufacturing companies across Alabama are hoping that the career coach program will continue to enhance opportunities for students. For now, the companies that supported Manufacture Alabama’s Career Coach Day are hoping that the educators will take their experience back to their students this fall.
Brooks McLendon, director of membership at MA, and Stephanie McCulloch, assistant director of North AlabamaWorks, share their thoughts about the tour in this video.
In addition, Manufacture Alabama’s Iron and Steel Council hosted a similar event with career coaches at AM/NS Calvert in southwest Alabama.
The group discussed several initiatives and options available. They created a plan that would educate young people on career options other than those available via a four-year degree; offer options for students to earn while they learn; provide soft-skills and other training opportunities to students and adults; and give residents the chance to register with West AlabamaWorks’ Career Connect web-based employment portal.
The plan consists of four specific segments as follows:
Outreach Event — This will be held in September at Fayette High School. There, attendees can register for Career Connect and free job training, such as Ready-to-Work, which prepares participants to enter the job market.
Adult Ready-to-Work — In conjunction with Ready-to-Work, officials at Bevill State Community College will offer certification in conjunction with the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council in the areas of production, logistics and manufacturing.
Ready-to-Work for High School Seniors — The West AlabamaWorks team modified RTW into a version for students, which will be offered at Fayette County High School this fall. Students who successfully complete the coursework will be job-ready upon receiving their diplomas.
Automotive and Modern Manufacturing Programs for High Schoolers — In partnership with BSCC, these students will have dual-enrollment opportunities to simultaneously earn a diploma and manufacturing industry credentials.
The plan will be monitored and altered as needed to fit the needs of students and employers.
To learn more, watch the WBRC video.
On May 5, West AlabamaWorks hosted its first automotive hiring fair, attracting thousands of people interested in working in the area’s booming industry. Twelve companies interviewed 1,400 people in the daylong event. To learn more, watch the video.
Several organizations in Dothan have united to ensure that front-line service personnel, such as those in hotels, have a solid working knowledge of things to do and see in the area.
Enterprise State Community College announced it will offer a commercial driver’s license program for students in the fall.
The school said it partnered with trucking companies in the region to create the curriculum for the six-week training course. It will be offered several times per year.
“The first couple of weeks they’ll be in a classroom. We’ll have a track, they’ve got to be able to manipulate and perform three different backing and driving exercises,” said Dean of Instruction Danny Long. “Before they get done with us, they’ll be on Highway 231 going up and down the highway.”
Photo: State Sen. Donnie Chesteen, ACCS Chancellor Jimmy Baker, ESCC President Matt Rodgers, State Rep. Steve Clouse, Ozark Mayor Bob Bunting and Southeast AlabamaWorks Director Ryan Richards announce the new CDL course during a recent press conference.
Read more at WSFA.