By Jasmine Shaw
For The Birmingham Times
Bridgette Thomas, mother of Minor High School senior Trevion Thomas, said she is thankful her son has access to resources that will help him succeed without directly attending a four year institution.
“It’s an excellent program because everybody is not designed for college or the military. So, now they can graduate with a skill set and actually get a job,” she said.
Thomas is talking about the High School Ready To Work program that launched earlier this year at Jackson Olin, Wenonah, Bessemer, and Minor High Schools. The 68 students involved received hands on, individualized training from leaders at companies like Altec, Mercedes, BLOX, Vulcan Painters, and other local businesses.
The program concluded on May 2 with a “Ready To Work Signing Day”, held at AIDT’s Alabama Workforce Training Center. Representatives from the program’s 12 employer partnerships joined students as they signed for jobs that will begin rewarding careers.
“Trevion will be working for Modular Connections,” said Thomas. “He’s really excited about the opportunity he’s been given to begin a career that he enjoys and feels well prepared for.”
Aryn Greene, Human Resource Manager at Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa, will welcome seven of the program’s graduates to her team this spring.
“Oh yes, the students are definitely prepared,” she said. “We are employing the largest number of graduates this semester and I’d recommend [this program] to everybody. Why would you not want to hire people that want to work?”
Tiffany Bishop has been the Workforce Development Area Manager for Central Alabama at Ōnin Group, a Birmingham based staffing company, for two years. She manages a six county region that includes Walker, St.Clair, Jefferson, Shelby, Blount and Chilton with the goal of helping students, educators, and employers make valuable professional connections.
After observing an unemployment need facing many high school graduates wanting to enter the workforce The Ōnin Group, in partnership with solar product design company Phifer Wire, helped facilitate the High School Ready to Work program in 2018 at Central High School in Tuscaloosa.
“The High School Ready To Work Program is designed by employers and for employers, so each employer training block is created to meet real hiring needs”, said Bishop.
Students participated in five weeks of soft skills training that
target communication, problem solving, workplace behavior, resume writing, and interview preparation. They then completed 12 to 13 weeks of industry specific training and visited job sites.
“This transformative program has given new pathways to students who didn’t feel they had any options,” Bishop said, “students in the program are not only entering the workforce but some are beginning apprenticeships, job training programs, and now have access to tuition reimbursement.”
The Ōnin staff worked with employers, educators, and community colleges to provide trade specific training and leverage curriculum that would allow Birmingham City, Bessemer City, and Jefferson County High School seniors to meet the demands of local industries.
Eleanor Cox, Curriculum Support Teacher for the Career Technical Education Department at Birmingham City Schools, calls the program a win-win for students and employers.
“This is a game changer! I’m really happy that kids will have the opportunity to begin careers with competitive salaries and great benefits without taking on a lot of debt,” said Cox.
“The program is also aligned with Governor Ivy’s Success Plus program, whose mission is to add 500,000 skilled laborers to Alabama’s workforce by 2025. So we’re all in this together and I’m happy to see the marriage between Birmingham’s business and education sector.”
Students also earn a National Career Readiness Certificate issued by ACT and an Alabama Certified Work Certificate issued by AIDT. These credentials acknowledge the comprehension of essential work skills needed for success in jobs across industries and various occupations.