Schools and workforce organizations keep talent flowing to businesses in this region.
Keeping a pipeline of skilled talent flowing to Prattville’s businesses is a priority for Autauga County Schools.
Serving more than 9,000 students in 13 schools, the district partners with industry leaders and organizations, such as Central AlabamaWorks, to help students explore and prepare for local, in-demand jobs through career and technical education (CTE) training, work-based learning experiences and dual enrollment programs.
“We must make sure our graduates will meet the needs of the various industries in the county,” says Tim Tidmore, superintendent of Autauga County Schools. “We have a strong career and technical education program. At the Autauga County Technology Center, high school students from across the county are able to earn credentials in a number of areas, from health science, cosmetology and engineering to mechanics, welding, fire science, and hospitality and tourism.”
“Autauga County Schools play a significant role in workforce development because we are educating the future generation of workers.”
Tim Tidmore, superintendent of Autauga County Schools
On the Job Training in Prattville
The technology center offers 16 different career clusters and weaves traditional classroom instruction with work-based learning experiences. The center hosts several events throughout the year to connect students to local businesses, and a countywide career coach helps students identify their interests and directs them into the correct program.
Students learn in a simulated workplace to gain those soft skills businesses require, such as communication, teamwork and punctuality, and the school offers work-based learning opportunities, such as co-ops and internships.
“All of the courses offered at the center are evaluated based on local needs. We make sure that the programs we offer are in high demand for our area,” says Brock Dunn, principal of the Autauga County Technology Center. “Having a skilled workforce is extremely important to a local community because it determines the area’s ability to recruit business and industry.”
Dunn says Career Tech programs help develop student interest in careers. Students often don’t know or understand what career options are available, underscoring the importance of career tech programs.
“There is such a focus in education on standards taught but not enough focus on why we are teaching the standards and how they apply to the real-world application,” he says. “Career Tech is that connection for students.”
Head Start to College and Careers
Students also have the opportunity to earn college credit through a dual enrollment program or participate in clinical programs developed to help students gain valuable advanced experience even before graduating high school.
“We have a very strong partnership with several colleges, including Central Alabama Community College. We have a number of students taking some of its career tech courses there,” Tidmore says. “Our goal is to have students graduating from high school and at the same time graduating from Central Alabama Community College with their associate degree. We also have academic dual enrollment programs through Trenholm State Community College and Auburn University at Montgomery.”
Fulfilling Workforce Needs
Central AlabamaWorks, a nonprofit that brings industry, job seekers, students and service providers together to find solutions for workforce needs, works with the county’s educators to help them design career-focused curriculum and programming.
“Our Educator Workforce Academy prepares educators to guide our students through pathway exploration as they learn about regional workforce demand. Through four intensive meeting days and a day of industry tours, educators are exposed to a variety of workforce resources and challenged to align their educational programs with local and regional demand,” says Gindi Prutzman, executive director of Central AlabamaWorks.
The organization’s Career Coach Connect (C3) allows an open communication line with the region’s career coaches. Through C3, the organization shares business and industry insight with high school career coaches as they help students identify career pathways.
Central AlabamaWorks also hosts Career Discovery, an expo that allows eighth-graders to get a real-world introduction to local careers.
“Along with the tours, the expo shares success stories from young adults who followed their career pathways from high school career tech into the workforce,” Prutzman says. “In 2022, we added CD2WORK, a series of hiring events targeting high school seniors going straight into the workforce. These six events connected 147 businesses with over 800 job seekers.”
Community College Plays Vital Role
Central Alabama Community College (CACC) plays a critical role in the region’s workforce development efforts, offering associate degrees and certificates in more than a dozen programs, from nursing to computer science.
The college’s Prattville campus opened to students in 2018 in the Pratt’s Mill Shopping Center. In 2022, CACC purchased a new 50,000-square-foot facility, which will allow the college to expand the number of courses and programs it offers.
“The Prattville campus provides a great foundation for us to add a significant number of our workforce programs.”
Jeff Lynn, president of Central Alabama Community College
“We are currently adding industrial maintenance programs, industrial electronics technology, computer information systems, artificial intelligence, office administration and a new standalone LPN program,” says Jeff Lynn, president of Central Alabama Community College. “Soon, we will have a large welding and technology building as well as a state-of-the-art science wing that will include a nursing suite of classrooms, SIM labs and four new chemistry, biology, physical science and physics labs.”
Lynn says the new facility will have a major impact on workforce and economic development in Prattville and Autauga County.
“We are very excited to work directly with all the businesses and industries in the region to provide training and education to their existing employees as well as students in the workforce pathway programs,” Lynn says. “CACC will be a major economic engine to support current business and industry, as well as new businesses that seek to locate in the area, and other aspirational businesses that may not have looked here before and now realize that we can provide them the skilled workers they need.”
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