WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) authored the following op-ed in the Southeast Sun to highlight the contributions Alabama’s community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are making to workforce development and economic growth in the state.
Alabama’s Community Colleges Are Driving Economic Success
U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville
The Southeast Sun
April 8, 2022
Business is booming in Alabama as the state’s contributions continue to be recognized on the national and international stage. No matter the size of the business, Alabama’s economic policies and stellar workforce are a welcome environment for those wanting to grow their businesses and invest in their communities. With these increased opportunities come increased demands, as we see occupational openings ranging from truck drivers to plumbers.
Job opportunities are abundant, but future workers need to be equipped with the skills necessary to meet these opportunities head-on. Fortunately, Alabama’s Community College System (ACCS) is ensuring Alabama remains a hub for economic growth by reimagining what it means to develop our workforce. Alabama’s 25 community colleges are providing readily accessible pathways where students can channel their interests into their personal and professional success, while also making meaningful contributions to our state’s upward economic trajectory.
Last month, the ACCS opened its Innovation Center as part of its commitment to meet the needs of the high-demand industries in our state. The ACCS Innovation Center provides rapid workforce training for these positions, a direct solution to fill the demands in trucking, butchery, recreation, plumbing, and facilities maintenance.
Alabama’s community colleges are also contributing to our national defense by providing technical airframe and avionics training opportunities, such as Enterprise State Community College/Alabama Aviation College’s partnership with M1 Support Services L.P. The partnership’s dual-enrollment option allows students to begin training in high school and secure good-paying jobs at Fort Rucker upon graduation. Innovative collaborations like these ensure Alabama’s military installations have the support needed to continue standing on the frontlines of our national security.
Rapid workforce training options not only benefit our economy, but they benefit individuals, too. Placing greater emphasis on skill competency and moving away from time-based programs, ACCS empowers students to complete hands-on training at a pace that works for them. Young adults need access to career options that enable them to discover their passions and develop skills that lead to good-paying jobs. For some, that leads them to a four-year university. But a four-year degree is not for everyone. And even outside of attending a four-year institution, vocational programs with time-based degree requirements can wind up deterring students from pursuing certain careers and deprive our workforce of talented employees.
Initiatives like the ACCS Innovation Center ensure that the success of those who are ready to find good-paying jobs is not limited by their current capabilities. At a time when businesses are in need of employees, we must find innovative ways to incentivize prospective workers to find employment within their communities and support novel approaches to do so.
When discussing institutions that empower young adults to reach their full potential, the important work of Alabama’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, cannot be overlooked. HBCUs provide minority students with opportunities to create their own future. HBCUs not only knock down barriers; they also build upon the inherent potential of their students. Among their many contributions, Alabama’s thirteen HBCUs have helped to fill the ongoing need for workers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) professions in our state.
The partnerships and training programs offered through our HBCUs ensure we have workers available and trained to fill vital roles within our local communities. For example, Shelton State’s Fire College trains fire fighters and EMTs that work on the frontlines to keep our communities safe.
Bishop State Community College partners with Alabama Power to offer a nine-week electric line worker training program to ensure we continue to have power restoration experts in times of need, like after a hurricane or other natural disaster.
Calhoun Community College’s aerospace technology program equips our defense and space industries with the uniquely-skilled workforce needed to manufacture hardware for rockets, missiles, planes, helicopters, and other aerospace and military equipment.
And, in as little as six months, a student at Lawson State Community College can launch his or her career in an industry like building construction or HVAC.
If we are going to continue fueling economic growth in our state, we must keep bridging the divide between job seekers and employers by ensuring we have adequate training and pathways to good-paying jobs. We must expand upon the work of the Alabama Community College System and our HBCUs to increase opportunities for all Alabamians so that our communities can continue to thrive.
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.