According to a statement from the office of Gov. Robert Bentley, “Alabama saw its unemployment rate drop significantly during Gov. Bentley’s first two years in office. The unemployment rate for Alabama dropped from 9.3 percent in January 2011 to 6.9 percent in January 2013. Alabama’s current unemployment rate as of July 2013 is 6.3 percent.”
More and more jobs are being created throughout the state. For example, the addition of the European planemaker Airbus opening its plant in Mobile helps to create a number of opportunities for Alabamians. This is good news for students at WCCT who are already receiving education in trades such as welding, drafting and the center’s latest electrical addition.
“Workforce data information has been gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tells us which occupations are needed right now in Alabama,” Ellis said. “What it says is that we need people entering the workforce who know how to do things with their hands, who are skilled in areas of welding, of electrical, of basic construction, of drafting, automotive technology and a lot of diesel technology.”
Several local business leaders, agency representatives, county and city school administrators formed a committee and traveled in August to Scottsboro where they viewed Jackson County’s Earnest Pruett Center of Technology’s incubator program. The committee created a partnership in hopes of applying and qualifying for a special education grant that will help to fund a similar program for Walker County.
The main focus of this project is industrial maintenance, which consists of the following three components: welders, machinists and electricians.
WCCT has yet to obtain a machinist program at its school; however, Ellis said they are in the process of working and collaborating with the Jasper City School System and Bevill State Community College to try and have easier access to a machinist program.
“A machinist program could have workers in a car assembly program; they could work in the mining program. A machinist could work in almost any area because what they do is make parts,” Ellis said. “You might have a need for a part in a mining machine or some type of heavy equipment, but that is not readily available. If you have a machinist, they can draw a diagram or a blueprint, so that’s where the drafting comes in. ... Almost every manufacturer is looking for machinists.”
As of now, the WCCT consists of 15 different programs, which include information technology, electronics, cosmetology, health science, drafting, animation, EMT services, business finance, graphic arts, collision repair, automotive technology, diesel technology, welding technology, horticulture-plant systems and electrical.
Ellis said the electrical field is a much-needed occupation in Walker County. Mark Palmer, who is the electrical instructor at WCCT, enjoys working with his students. Last week he taught kids about Ohm’s law — a law that describes how resistance, voltage and current is applied.
“When you teach electrical, you’re actually teaching people to think because electrical is like mathematics. It’s all about accuracy; there’s no guesswork to it,” Palmer said. “... What we’re hoping to do is to work with local industry and communicate with them that, ‘Hey, we’re preparing students to maybe look at an apprenticeship or at least get their foot in the door with some electrical company.’”
The goals for WCCT are working toward an industrial maintenance, electrical program, always looking to add credentials for students and welding. Ellis says welding is the credential option they are “naturally pushing ... it is an education foundation for construction.”
Ellis said with a smile, “We are working to make students career-ready and be able to work in the 21st century global society.”