Autauga County is finding cutting-edge ways of preparing its students for future careers through hands-on experiences and opportunities to "test-out" career paths.
The Autauga County Technology Center offers skills-based training that provides students with the potential to transition to jobs after high school or build the educational foundation to enter post-secondary educational programs.
Haley Gilmore was a student in the ACTC’s health program, before going on to study nursing at Auburn University and now at Troy University at Montgomery. She plans to graduate in December 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and says her experiences at ACTC helped reinforce her decision to work in the medical world while giving her opportunities to learn from medical professionals in office settings. In local medical facilities, Gilmore says she was able to learn to conduct procedures such as taking patient assessments, histories and vitals.
“The doctors and nurses that work with the Technology Center are great,” Gilmore says. “Participating in the health program showed me what I can expect as a nurse.”
School-based Learning + Career-related Experiences
The ACTC offers 10 of 16 national clusters aligned with local workforce industry data and follow the state-adopted Career and Technical Education model, says Brock Dunn, administrator of Autauga County Technology Center. The local clusters include Health Science; Finance; Information Technology; Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Education and Training; and Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics.
Several Autauga County businesses work with the Technology Center. In the Early Childhood Education II program, students can bolster their experience by working with teachers at Prattville Kindergarten School. Dunn says students receive monetary reimbursement in the Business Education Co-Op programs in which students leave school early and work in an area related to their career objective.
“At the ACTC, we bridge the gap between education and the world of work,” Dunn says. “Our focus is ensuring students develop a working knowledge of potential career choices.”
Adjacent to Prattville High School, the ACTC opened in 1980 to meet the vocational educational needs of Autauga County School System’s high school students, Dunn says.
“We have about a 90 percent placement rate in a related field, which could be a two-year college, four-year college or military,” Dunn says. He added that this does not include students who head straight into the workforce.
In the 2016-17 school year, the ACTC is serving about 1,000 students from four different high schools in the Autauga County School System – Prattville, Autaugaville, Billingsley and Marbury schools. Students participating in Technical Center programs, which are all electives, spend part of their school days at their respective high schools, then come to ACTC for skills training.
Students completing programs at the Technology Center can earn Career Readiness Indicators such as Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT), Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), Microsoft Office Certification and ServSafe.
“Most skills-based professions now require a certification or two-year degree beyond high school,” Dunn says. “We offer engineering classes that prepare students for classes offered at the college level. We also have a Business Technical Applications class that provides certification in Microsoft Office, allowing students with this certification to be hired directly after high school.”
Getting a Head Start
Garrett Smith, a junior at Prattville High School, participates in the Health Science program at the ACTC as a stepping stone to enter a college pre-med program.
“We learn so much in a fun atmosphere at the Technology Center,” Smith says. “I have a special opportunity to get ahead and I’ll know what to expect when I get to college.”
Smith says he looks forward to earning Patient Care Technician certification through an internship in his senior year.
“I can go straight from high school into the workforce and get paid to work while I attend college,” he says. “This is such a great program. It teaches me a lot, and I’ll be better prepared to be a doctor and use my abilities to help the most people possible.”