By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The county’s top industrial recruiter said this week that a new scholarship program, under which Alto Products employees can earn degrees or certifications at Coastal Alabama Community College (CACC), will be a key to developing a quality work force in and around Atmore.
Jess Nicholas, who works with Escambia County Industrial Development Authority to bring new industry to the county, said the program is patterned after a similar one that has already benefited several area industries.
“This is a program that has been utilized in the past in our area in several industries, and there are many like it across the country,” Nicholas said. “I’ve been an advocate for these types of programs ever since I got into economic development with Coastal Gateway Economic Development Alliance many years ago.”
According to Alto’s website, the scholarship plan is for “employees of Alto who wish to pursue a degree while employed by Alto.” It was created to support the emerging workforce in Escambia County by allowing our employees to work while pursuing postsecondary education at CACC.
Scholarship applicants must be graduates of an Escambia County, Ala. or Escambia County, Fla. high school, or those who work, and are a resident of either county. Those who are awarded must pursue a certificate or degree from one of CACC’s technical programs.
Alto must approve the program. Scholarship recipients must work a minimum of 20 hours per week at the local transmission parts manufacturer. There are also GPA requirements and minimum credit hours involved.
Nicholas noted that the local college’s current technical offerings — including welding, HVAC technology, nursing — have been well-received. But, he added, two of its newest programs will be major components in developing a well-trained employee pool for the entire county.
“Those programs are in good shape, but the one that ECIDA is most excited about is the machine tool and industrial maintenance programs, because we have had a gaping hole there for years,” he said. “Companies like Alto Products have a need for the kind of students that program will train, and Alto isn’t the only company with that need.”
He credited Dr. Craig Pouncey, CACC’s current president, and the dean of workforce development, Dr. Joshua Duplantis, for being “very aggressive about expanding these programs in Escambia County and sort of reinventing the Atmore campus”.
He also praised Alto’s president, David Landa, for the industrialist’s efforts on behalf of a strong partnership between the educational and industrial fields.
“David Landa has always been an advocate and a loyal partner to industrial development and education in Escambia County, even if it ultimately meant more competition (with other companies) for workers,” Nicholas said. “I am thrilled to see Alto participating in this program, because we’ve seen this model be hugely successful for the pulp and chemical industries in (several) counties through the Thomasville campus.”
Nicholas said such programs create a win-win, or actually a win-win-win, situation.
“The opportunity for our students is this: It removes a lot of the financial burden of college; it allows them to develop a close relationship with a local company, and it provides a path to employment in good-paying jobs in the student’s hometown area,” he said. “The company gets a jump on identifying and selecting its future workforce, and the college gets not just a student it knows is interested in a specific career, but also the buy-in of the company in that student’s educational success. All three entities get a benefit.”
For more information on the scholarship program, visit altousa.com/scholarship.