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Southeast Alabama Students Prep for In-Demand Jobs

High schools and colleges in Southeast Alabama take the lead in preparing students for in-demand careers.

By Kevin Litwin on October 14, 2014

Students in Southeast Alabama are workforce ready, thanks to an array of academic and degree programs that prepare them for in-demand careers.

Offering more than 110 undergraduate programs across a across a range of disciplines, Troy University is meeting the need for pilots in the region’s fast growing aviation industry with a new training program established in partnership with Mauna Loa Helicopters. The program will offer training in fixed-wing and rotary-wing aviation operations and include a dual enrollment program for Pike County High School students to give them a head start in pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in the field.

Troy University also provides advanced degrees, including a new master’s degree in social work to meet clinical needs in the southern part of the state and a doctorate in nursing.

Recently, the university has gained national recognition for its computer science programs, including a cyber security degree that focuses on network security, protecting electronic assets, preventing attacks and ensuring customer privacy.

“When a Troy student earns a degree these days in computer science, it pretty much means a guaranteed job after graduation,” says Bill Zhong, chairman of the university’s Department of Computer Science. “The national average starting salary is around $65,000 for a bachelor’s degree holder in computer science.”

Troy University has a modern computer science program that adapts to current research and trends, Zhong says.

“Computer science is a challenging, cutting-edge, fast-moving industry where knowledge from three years ago is obsolete today,” he says. “Troy has an incredible program that includes a Computer Science Student Club, full-fledged online degrees and top faculty members with strong research backgrounds.”

Technical Training

Enterprise State Community College preps students for jobs in several of the region’s top industries through technical programs such as aviation training at the Alabama Aviation Center and courses in welding, industrial automotive technology and industrial maintenance. Lurleen B. Wallace Community College is known for its automotive mechanics training curriculum, which has been recognized for excellence in engine repair, automatic transmissions, manual transmissions, automotive heating and air conditioning, electrical systems, brakes, steering and suspension, and engine performance.

First-Class Programs

Courses and curricula for in-demand careers are not just the work of higher education institutions. Enterprise High School in Coffee County is expanding its courses in health sciences and has created its first science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program. Crenshaw County students now have access to programs like mechanical engineering, computer technology and auto mechanics at a new Career Technical Center.

Career academies have been established in Troy City Schools and Pike County Schools, and a new mechatronics curriculum has been introduced in Dothan City Schools. Additionally, six school systems in Southeast Alabama have received a combined $1.2 million in funding to expand their career technical programs, including adding dual enrollment subjects in partnership with Wallace Community College.

“Four of our popular programs are welding technology, industrial maintenance, electrical technology and air conditioning/refrigeration, with many of those graduates going right to work after two years at jobs starting at $30,000 to $32,000 a year,” says Bill Sellers, Wallace Community College associate dean of career and technical education. “Tuition here is much lower than at a four-year institution, plus many of the in-demand occupations these days don’t require a four-year degree. More and more people are thinking about going the community college route for a top career.”

The college also works closely with local corporations to train students in business and industrial technologies.

“We partner with many area companies that provide internships,” he says. “Michelin has an industrial maintenance technology internship program that is always full. On our campus, we have also added 3D printers to make machine parts, since that technology is already heavily used in the aerospace, automotive and medical fields.”

Read more about working in Southeast Alabama.

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