Home > AL > Athens > Education, Careers & Opportunity > Students Are Ready to Work in Limestone County

Students Are Ready to Work in Limestone County

Athens State University, Calhoun Community College and Limestone County Career Technical Center keep highly skilled talent flowing to this North Alabama region’s businesses.

By Teree Caruthers on February 23, 2023

Athens State University
Athens State University

A university in Athens and a nearby community college continue to produce a highly skilled and readily available workforce that’s fueling the Athens-Limestone County region’s economic growth and success. Thanks to the efforts of Athens State University, Calhoun Community College and the Limestone County Career Technical Center, the region’s businesses can draw from a large pool of homegrown talent.

“Workforce development is a key component of the university’s mission,” says Chris Latham, director of marketing, public relations & publications for Athens State University. “Athens State offers over 50 degree programs and options that produce highly competent and well-trained graduates – individuals who are ready to meet the demands of employers throughout the region and beyond.”

Latham notes that many of these programs were developed with industry leaders in order to help build specific skill sets and meet the challenges associated with the region’s rapidly growing economic area.

Did You Know?

As one of only a handful of upper-division universities in the country, Athens State primarily serves working adults and community college graduates. The university offers those students a number of resources and services to help connect them to local careers.

For example, the Experiential Learning program, embedded into the course curriculum, allows students to develop knowledge and learn new skills by applying theory and academic content to real-world experiences not only in the classroom but also in the community and the workplace through internships, undergraduate research and community service.

Calhoun Community College
Calhoun Community College

Training for the Future

With satellite campuses in Huntsville and Decatur, Calhoun Community College is the largest community college in the Alabama Community College System. Like Athens State, it plays a central role in the region’s workforce development efforts, offering some 100 different career training and degree programs.

“We provide technical training, health care training and everything students need to get from entry level into advanced degrees,” says Houston Blackwood, director of Workforce Solutions at Calhoun Community College.

“There’s nothing they can’t start here and finish with us
or one of our partner institutions.”

Houston Blackwood, Calhoun Community College

Blackwood says the college works closely with the business community to ensure students are learning the skills necessary to be successful in the local workplace. Those partnerships also give students the opportunity to get hands-on training through internships, externships and apprenticeships and gain a head start to promising careers.

“The best thing that we do is our apprenticeships, externships and internships,” Blackwood says. “In the classroom, a student goes through theory training, and that theory is often updated as technologies and processes develop. But when we put those students in a job for a semester or two, they experience those changes firsthand and learn how to adapt, then they have all the current information and are up to task and are prepared to seamlessly enter the workforce.”

Over 900 high school students are enrolled at the Limestone County Career Technical Center, preparing for their future career.
Limestone County Career Technical Center

Fueling the Workforce

The Limestone County Career Technical Center (LCCTC) is helping fuel the workforce by connecting students to local, in-demand careers. “Our role is training and exposing students to jobs that are high demand and high wage, located here in Limestone County and North Alabama,” says Vince Green, LCCTC director.

Opportunities include everything from construction to engineering positions, health science fields to culinary arts and graphic design.

Green says a committee made up of local industry leaders advises the center’s instructors and administration on workforce needs, helping ensure equipment and training are up to date. Industry partners also provide internships and other work-based learning opportunities for students.


The educational facility, which serves students in both Athens City and Limestone County school systems, offers more than 20 career pathways, engaging student interests in prospective jobs at an early age.

“The Limestone County Board of Education, for example, has budgeted money to hire our high school students to work with the county school system at various jobs, such as teaching and training, maintenance and public relations,” he says. “Our students take tours of local businesses, and all our seniors go through mock interviews with local industry leaders.”

Green says the LCCTC helps prepare students to not only enter the workforce, but to also have long and successful careers.

“Career readiness is essential to be able to retain a job once they obtain a job. We at LCCTC expose students to a ready-to-work program – a simulated workplace in which students create a company name and conduct themselves as employees and all the responsibilities that go along with being on time, having a good attitude, being a team player and communicating with fellow employees for a common goal.”

Students in pathways, such as health care and manufacturing, are also able to earn industry credentials as well as college credit through the Alabama Community College System. The LCCTC manufacturing program, for example, teaches dual enrollment classes to build the bridge from high school to college courses.

“Students in manufacturing are exposed to training equipment such as robotic trainers, pneumatic and hydraulic trainers, and they have an assembly line to expose them to real-life production of an industry product,” Green says.

Manufacturing Careers in Athens

The center is one of only four schools in North Alabama to pilot a Modern Manufacturing program through North AlabamaWorks! regional workforce development council aimed at preparing students for advanced manufacturing jobs.

Manufacturing is a driving force in North Alabama, with more than 86,000 manufacturing jobs, from aerospace and defense, chemicals and plastics to forestry, agricultural, food products and automotive, says Johnita Romine, education and training programs manager for North AlabamaWorks!

“Ours is the only Alabama workforce region that has two original equipment manufacturers, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM) and Toyota Motor Manufacturing,” Romine says. “Alabama’s manufacturing industry has one thing in common – the need for production technicians, hence the reason the Modern Manufacturing program exists. It will help to fulfill that need and serve as a pipeline into the industry.”

Romine says students in the Modern Manufacturing program will get a sense of the many opportunities, benefits and rewards the industry provides, including an above-average starting salary.

“The Modern Manufacturing program is about innovation, precision and quality,” Romine says. “In the modern manufacturing workplace, employees work as teams to solve problems and produce high-quality goods. Today’s manufacturing professionals work with their hands, with their minds and with state-of-the-art equipment to create products.”

Alabama Center for the Arts
Alabama Center for the Arts

Coming Soon: A Dorm for the Arts

Students attending the Alabama Center for the Arts will soon be able to live on the Decatur campus. A three-story, $15.6 million dormitory is currently under construction at the corner of First Avenue SE and Johnston Street in downtown Decatur, adjacent to the existing Alabama Center for the Arts campus. The dorm is expected to be ready for occupancy in the fall of 2023.

The residence hall will feature 49 apartments with a mix of 11 studio, 19 one-bedroom and 19 two-bedroom units for a total of 68 beds. Alabama Center for the Arts is a partnership between Calhoun Community College, Athens State University and the City of Decatur to accommodate students interested in earning degrees and pursuing careers in the visual arts or performing arts.

Staff writer Kevin Litwin contributed to this article.

Array ( )
Array ( )
Array ( )
Array ( )

Newsletter Sign Up

Keep up to date with our latest rankings and articles!
Enter your email to be added to our mailing list.