Special to Atmore News
Officials from the Alabama Community College System, including Vice Chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development Jeff Lynn, joined local elected officials, industry leaders and economic developers last week for a tour of Coastal Alabama Community College’s campuses in Atmore, Brewton and Monroeville.
The three-campus tour was part of an effort to align the college’s technical programs with industry needs.
In Atmore, the group met with representatives from Muskogee Technology, Brown Precision, Georgia Pacific and Alto Products. In Brewton, they met with representatives from Provalus, Frontier Technologies and Longleaf Machining. In Monroeville, officials met with representatives of Sterling Packaging and Gate Precast.
The purpose of the tour was to identify gaps in workforce training. Since the merger of the former Alabama Southern Community College in Monroeville, Thomasville, Jackson and Gilbertown and Jeff Davis Community College in Brewton and Atmore, local industries have pushed for more technical programs to be added.
The campuses in Escambia, Monroe, Clarke and Choctaw counties are now headquartered in Bay Minette in Baldwin County, home of the former Faulkner State Community College, although local campus directors are either in place or are in the process of being appointed.
Jess Nicholas, interim executive director for Coastal Gateway Regional Economic Development Alliance, said having Lynn and his team meet with industry leaders would hopefully lead to a stronger local focus on programs that would be directly beneficial to industries specific to the region.
“We’ve got a burgeoning aerospace sector forming, particularly in Escambia County, and then on top of that you have an IT sector now with Provalus coming online in Brewton,” Nicholas said. “That’s on top of general machining, industrial maintenance and forestry, which we’ve had for decades. And in Monroeville, ACCS met with Sterling Packaging and Gate Precast, representing two completely different sectors.
“The sector diversity we get as a result is nice, but it can also leave community colleges not knowing exactly what to offer or what to target. That’s what makes a visit like this so important.”
Nicholas pointed out that hearing the message from industry leaders, rather than elected officials or economic developers, can have an added punch.
“These are the folks actually doing the work, and trying to hire people to do the work,” he said. “We developers can go to Montgomery and talk about these issues all day long, but it doesn’t have the same impact as visiting a plant and having someone tell you they could hire another 10 or 20 people if they could only find employees with the skills.”