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    Montgomery officials are recruiting a company that would initially bring 500 jobs. About 10 percent of those jobs require a two-year postsecondary education; none require a four-year degree; and the remainder are for high school graduates or those with a GED.

    After officials, including Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and Mark Heinrich, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, exchanged small talk about the company officials’ flight to Montgomery, the discussion turned serious. Strange said the company wanted to know about the school district’s dropout rate. That issue is being addressed by Montgomery Public Schools, the Alabama State Department of Education and its 2020 plan to increase graduation rates and prepare students for postsecondary education or the workforce. Other education-related organizations are also heavily involved in the process.

    For years, businesses and industries have been clamoring for a more skilled workforce and responses to those requests have been “disjointed and sometimes just downright dysfunctional,” said Leslie Sanders, 2014 chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

    That’s all in the past. Now, the Chamber, Montgomery Public Schools, Alabama Community College System (which includes H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College), Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT), Alabama Technology Network, City of Montgomery, Montgomery County and Alabama Regional Workforce Councils (Region 7) are all on the same page – working closely together and talking about the importance of those partnerships.

    The key issue, according to Heinrich, “is that we are working together.” He cited partnerships with AIDT, Alabama Technology Network and K-12.

    Trenholm President Sam Munnerlyn said, “We’re committed to what we’re doing here at Trenholm to make the process work. We’re committed to putting the dollars in.”

    The county and city will help finance the infrastructure, said Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton N. Dean Sr. “We like to do things like that when we see it’s going to be profitable.”

    Strange said, “It’s exciting now that we are taking the step in partnership with all of us to get to where we need to be.”

    And where “we need to be” is developing a more highly trained, highly skilled workforce. Sanders talked “about a workforce development pipeline and how incredibly important that is. I’m here today to say that Montgomery and the River Region have been making great strides for training and recruiting and (retaining) all of our businesses and industries.”

    She was one of a handful of speakers at a news conference unveiling a “pipeline for an integrated workforce development” and the creation of the Montgomery Regional Workforce Training Center (MRWTC).

    The training center will likely be located inside the school district’s technical education facility, according to AIDT Director Ed Castile. Locating in the same area will enable AIDT to share its equipment, resources, trainers, instructors and expertise with Montgomery Public Schools and allow AIDT to use the school district’s resources after 3 p.m. “What they (school district) don’t have covered, we’ll bring to the table,” Castile said.

    Castile said that the training center would initially be between 13,000 and 15,000 square feet. “We really need some open space,” Castile said. “It doesn’t have to be fancy. We’re just talking about a machining maintenance type-area.” It will house an industrial maintenance shop and an area for basic manufacturing skills, Castile said. AIDT can also bring in equipment for a robotics program and has four or five mobile welding units.

    The goal is to have the training center cost as little as possible and be operational quickly, Castile said, but it all depends on where the school district locates its technical education center. “It behooves us to be nearby,” he said. If that is not possible, then AIDT would look to lease a storefront or work with Trenholm Tech for some space.

    There has been talk about the school district locating its technical education center at the old Montgomery Mall, which would leave plenty of room for AIDT to set up the Montgomery Regional Workforce Training Center.

    “The launch of the Montgomery Regional Workforce Training Center is the Chamber’s equivalent of a major economic development announcement,” Sanders said in a statement.

    “By providing critical, targeted training, the MRWTC will be meeting one of the greatest needs identified in the Chamber’s economic growth strategy.”

    Manufacturing and information technology will be the primary focus of the training center, but construction trades could be included, Castile said. Those areas of concentration are based on multiple surveys conducted by the Chamber.

    Castile said there are short-term, mid-term and long-term programs for those sectors. The long-term plan is getting junior and high school students through the various programs to improve their skills. The mid-term answer is increasing the number of students who complete the two-year college system program.

    Meanwhile, the short-term response is under way and that’s improving current employees’ soft skills with courses being conducted at the Montgomery Chamber’s Small Business Resource Center.

    In response to surveys, AIDT has created a six-week program on basic manufacturing skills, which includes a week on robotics and a week of electric. “We’re not going to make them experts in one week, but we’re going to help them down the path,” Castile said. “Our goal is to not only help the existing employees, but to build a pool of employees companies can hire from.”

    One of those areas is industrial maintenance, where “we are woefully short on the numbers that we need,” Castile said. He said that AIDT will offer a program in the spring that complements the program offered at Trenholm. The AIDT program who take students who complete the Trenholm program and help them “acquire the exact specifics they need,” Castile said.

    AIDT will rely on the Alabama Technology Network as well as colleges and universities to meet the needs of the information technology sector.

    “We know that to create jobs we have to recruit new businesses; grow our existing businesses; and train our workforce,” Sanders said. “We want to make sure that we have a competitive workforce in place. We know that local industries and corporations are begging for talent.

    “We are here to tell you today, to the businesses and industries in this area – we hear you.”




    January 2015
    By David Zaslawsky
    Photography by Robert Fouts

    H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College is investing millions of dollars to upgrade its programs and to make its Patterson campus more attractive to potential students.

    The college will spend $150,000 to beef up its dual enrollment program in which high school students take courses at Trenholm and receive college credits while attending high school. A student could earn 36 semester credits while in high school and would only need two or three more semesters for an associate’s degree, said Trenholm Tech President Sam Munnerlyn. He said officials are trying “to encourage high school students to get enrolled earlier so they can get out and get into the workforce a lot earlier,” he said.

    The college recently received their accreditation through the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and that’s “the crowning jewel,” Munnerlyn said.

    The college has:

    • Spent $350,000 for new machine tool equipment this year after spending $200,000 to upgrade the program in 2013.

    • Spent nearly $195,000 for air conditioner and refrigeration equipment and is the only location in the area that trains students to repair freezers in stores.

    • $240,000 on new welding equipment.

    In addition to those investments, Trenholm Tech has:

    • Doubled the space in the air conditioning/refrigeration program from 5,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet at a cost of $35,000.

    • Doubled the space of the welding program from 5,400 square feet to 10,800 square feet at a cost of $750,000.

    More than doubled the space of automotive collision program from 9,000 square feet to 19,000 square at a cost of $1.8 million and will move the program from its Trenholm campus on Air Base Boulevard to the Patterson campus across from the old Montgomery Mall. The Patterson campus contains the college’s technical programs while the Trenholm campus has the health care and business-related programs.

    Another critically important investment is $80,000 a year for a workforce development director.

    Trenholm Tech will spend about $1.9 million on a new entryway for its Patterson campus, which includes landscaping, removal of a building and paving streets.

    “The whole plan is to increase the pipeline,” Munnerlyn said about increasing the enrollment and sending students with skills into the workforce.

    In addition to all the above, Trenholm Tech has specialized training degree programs with Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, which has a facility in Montgomery. The college is working with SABIC Innovative Plastics, a business unit of Saudi Basic Industries Corp., which has a manufacturing plant in Burkville.

    “We’re now developing a master plan that would include plans for the next 10 years for both our campuses,” Munnerlyn said. 



    January 2015
    By David Zaslawsky     
    Photography by Robert Fouts     

    Talk about a customized workforce training program. The Alabama Community College System has worked so closely with companies that together they develop curriculum and help recruit students into the program.

    Those students typically work at the companies, said Mark Heinrich, chancellor of the state’s two-year college system. He said that companies often provide scholarships to the top students in the program and sometimes guarantee those students a job when they graduate.

    “It’s working very, very well across the state,” Heinrich said. “We will work with any business and industry to tailor a training program that meets your needs.”

    And there is and will be a tremendous need for workers. The state will have almost 800,000 job openings between 2010 and 2020, according to a Georgetown University report. About 115,000 of those jobs openings will go unfilled by 2020 “if we do nothing,” Heinrich said. That increases to 219,000 unfilled jobs by 2030, he said.

    That is not going to happen as the community college system has implemented various programs, including the above example of its earn-and-learn program.

    Heinrich said that dual enrollment – when a high school student takes college courses – is expected to grow from 2,000 students to 10,000-plus with a major increase of scholarship funding.

    Students working on their GED “are also involved in some technical skill development,” Heinrich said. When the student completes the GED program they have a “marketable skill” from taking technical courses, Heinrich said.

    The community college system is working with regional workforce councils. “One piece of that is helping (each region) hire a full-time CEO who gets up every day thinking about workforce and workforce development and we are about halfway through the state right now,” Heinrich said.

    There also is an awareness of dealing with what Heinrich called “the middle-skill gap.” Those jobs, which constitute the largest segment of the labor market, require some postsecondary education, but not a four-year degree, Heinrich said. More than half of the job openings from 2010 to 2020 (56 percent) are middle-skilled and another 15 percent are low-skilled. He pointed out that only 24.4 percent of the higher-education budget is devoted to middle-skilled and low-skilled jobs, which compromise 71 percent of the jobs. “Clearly, the state needs to make some adjustments,” he said about funding.

    With a modest population growth, the state must find its future workers from Alabama and there is a large pool available. Almost 480,000 working-age adults don’t have a high school diploma, but the two-year system “is elevating their skill sets so they can enter the workforce,” Heinrich said.

    The potential labor pool also includes nearly 460,000 who are under-employed. “With a little bit of training; with a little bit of skill development those individuals are going to be ready for jobs …” he said.

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