New West Ala. program exposes educators to industry to help prepare students for jobs

Educators tour a West Alabama industry Wednesday in Tuscaloosa County. (Source: Terri Brewer/WBRC)
Educators tour a West Alabama industry Wednesday in Tuscaloosa County. (Source: Terri Brewer/WBRC)

TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - A program is getting off the ground in West Alabama, connecting education and industry leaders to make sure students are getting the right skills to be ready for a good job once they graduate.

The Educator Workforce Academy, coordinated by the West Alabama Works workforce development organization, includes superintendents and principals, even at the middle and elementary school levels, to make sure students are starting early on the skills that will make them employable.

For the next year, about 90 superintendents and principals will go into local industries and see first-hand what the jobs involve. West Alabama Works began the academy largely due to the growth of industry in West Alabama and the serious need for qualified workers.

So far, many of the employers have identified so-called "soft skills" as being crucial for their workers.

"Helping the kids understand the value of being at work on time and being here everyday, and giving it your best all day long, everyday," Tuscaloosa County Schools Director of Career and Technical Education Dennis Duncan said in describing these skills. "I think it's going to make a big difference in helping kids understand the importance of things they should be doing no matter what their employment."

"Only half of the superintendents and principals had ever been in a plant like this," West Alabama Works Executive Director Donny Jones said as the educators were touring ZF Industries Wednesday. "What we're really helping the educators see is there are great opportunities for our kids in this region, and what it takes to get these jobs. A lot of these jobs are operator jobs. It does not take a four-year degree, and they do make great salaries with great benefits."

Jones estimates as many as 4,000 new jobs will be coming available in West Alabama in the automotive industry alone in the next few years.

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