Colleges and businesses connect to prep students for the workforce

Community colleges work with businesses to prepare students for workforce

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Community colleges across Alabama are reaching out to businesses, asking how they can prep students to meet the state’s labor demand.

Jimmy Baker, the chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, said the board for the system noticed there was a lack of skilled laborers for the companies across the state.

“What they noticed was there was a demand for skilled-labor and often times that skilled-labor was having to be imported," Baker said. "Or either because of the lack of skilled labor, we were not able to attract certain industries.”

Baker said they have encouraged community colleges to see how they can train students for job opportunities in their region.

“We literally have people who are out calling on businesses in the industry every day trying to determine what jobs are available," Baker said. “What types of needs do you have as a business?”

The Alabama Workforce Council’s Statewide Educational Attainment Committee has a goal to have 500,000 high-skilled workers by 2025.

Colleges including Lawson State Community College are communicating with businesses in their region to see what courses they can provide to give students those skills.

“We constantly modify our program to keep up with the industries in our area. It’s unbelievable how much we’ve changed," said Rich Raymond, the chair for the Center for Manufacturing Engineering Division at Lawson State Community College.

Raymond said the college is continuing to offer different certification opportunities for students to show future employers what they learned in school.

“What most of your companies are doing is they’re looking to see if a national certification has verified if you know what you say you know,” he said.

Lawson college also incorporated different programs to fit the needs of businesses. For example, Brose Mechatronics offered apprenticeship opportunities for some students attending the college but requested that Lawson offer machine tool classes.

Nancy Wilson, Assistant Dean of Career Technical Education for Lawson State Community College, said the school agreed to provide that course.

“So we talk with the businesses and find out what they need and then we try and develop some type of program based off of that need,” Wilson said.

Students who do not have any knowledge in the industry or just have a high school diploma can apply for these community college career tech programs like these.

Jose Ramos is a student at Lawson college. He is participates in the mechatronics program, even though he was not aware of what it was beforehand.

"And then I came in and it’s a whole mix of electronics, and mechanical and it really interests me,” Ramos said.

“We start them like they know absolutely nothing and we bring them up until they’re ready to troubleshoot and ready for the workforce," Wilson said.

Ramos said he considered attending a four-year university, but switched to a community college because it was more economical for him.

Other students chose the program because they like to work hands-on.

“I didn’t just want to sit in a class all day,” said Jacob Porte, a student at the college.

Kurt Jones along with Ramos and Porte participate in an apprenticeship program with Borse Mechatronics. They attend classes at Lawson and work at the manufacturing company. Jones said the classes help prepare him for work.

“It gives us a lot of base knowledge on troubleshooting and things that we see on a daily basis in the maintenance field or robotics,” Jones said.

Chancellor Baker said the Alabama Community College System is working to reach out to high school counselors and educate them about the opportunities community colleges have for students.

“Many of our counselors across the state in the high schools tend to counsel the benefits of going to a four-year college. I’m not opposed to that,” he said. “But we need to expose students to all of the opportunities that are available.”

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