OZARK, AL (WSFA) - Alabama Aviation College in Ozark just got a big boost to their school's budget. Gov. Kay Ivey approved a $2.5 million grant for the college. The check was presented at a ceremony at the school Friday morning.
According to the school's president, the money will go toward purchasing new equipment students can use in the mechanic program, renovating facilities, and building a new composite lab where students can work hands-on with equipment.
"The grant will do wonders for our college in terms of improvement to our infrastructure we have a lot of needs we plan to address with this money. Equipment and supplies are some, but in terms of renovations and repairs to certain buildings – which will allow us to better serve our students," said Matt Rodgers, Enterprise Community College President.
The school also hopes this will help increase enrollment because they'll have more resources.
"It will get back like it was a few years ago when we had 1,000 students here. Now they're starting to build. It got down to 100 students," said Ozark Mayor Bob Bunting.
President Rodgers says the investment in better training students will help fill gaps in the local workforce.
"We have a lot of employers in the area that badly need skilled workers in this particular area. We feel like there is an uptick. This improvement facility wise will allow us to expand our opportunities for our students," said Rodgers.
One of the major employers needing skilled workers is just 11 miles from the college – Fort Rucker.
"Fort Rucker is the economic engine that drives our economy. It's the largest employer. And then the largest employer at Fort Rucker is the maintenance contract. This school has to be the economic engine to provide those mechanics," said Bunting.
Over the next two years, Alabama's workforce is expected to change. By 2020, 62 percent of jobs available in Alabama will require a post-secondary certificate or degree, but today only 37 percent of the workforce has the credentials, according to Gov. Ivey's office.
Ivey noted the grant investment is bigger than just funding campus development.
"This isn't just an investment in our campus, but rather an investment in our people and their future and thus an investment in Alabama," Ivey explained.
Students who graduate from the mechanic program at the aviation school go on to earn an average starting salary of $54,240 a year.
The college says it hasn't decided which buildings will be renovated yet. They plan to work with local businesses to discuss what changes need to happen on campus to help prepare students for the local workforce.
According to the president, they will meet with architects in the next few weeks and hope to have work complete by sometime next year.