By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Ana Gregory, a recent graduate of Huffman High School, became one step closer to reaching her career objectives during “Signing Day” where she was matched with a local company for a seven-week apprenticeship program as part of the Birmingham Promise pilot initiative.
Gregory was one of 20 Birmingham City Schools students and recent graduates at the Negro Southern League Museum in downtown for the signing ceremony as part of Birmingham Promise, which offers students work-based learning experiences in finance and insurance, healthcare and life sciences, energy and engineering and digital technology.
“This puts me a step closer into getting in the field that I want to, and it’s a male-dominated field so me being a female . . . for people to know who I am and get into this field is amazing,” said Gregory, who will work with Alabama Power and attend University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in the fall with a major in mechanical engineering.
“I went for mechanical engineering because you can work in aerospace, you can work on cars or laptops or anything like that and . . . I’ve been interested in building or tearing down and taking things a part and putting them back together,” said Gregory. “I used to build my own dollhouses and cars … having my hands into something all the time kept me out of trouble and it was just something that I love to do.”
“Earn And Learn”
The summer pilot is part of the larger Birmingham Promise Initiative, which will offer multiple pathways for students to “earn and learn” as they develop skills to prepare for jobs in industries that are growing in the regional economy.
“The Birmingham Promise is a wonderful opportunity for us to make an investment and down payment in our future and the best way to do that is to invest and support our youth,” said Mayor Randall Woodfin. “Every year, our young people walk across the stage and we need to make sure they are exercising the option of attending either a college or university, going into the military or straight into the workforce. This apprenticeship model makes sure every young person has the opportunity to be gainfully employed, learn a skill and if they choose not to go to college or to the military, they can go straight into the workforce.”
Curtis Watson, a recent graduate of George Washington Carver High School, will apprentice with Shipt, an internet-based grocery delivery service headquartered in Birmingham.
“This will help prepare me because with the major I want to go into, they [city officials] have different companies that I can gain experience from so that I can know what I’m doing when I get to college,” said Watson, who will attend Alabama State University in the fall and major in exercise science.
Jeremy King, a spokesman with Regions Bank, said it is important for companies to invest in the community.
“At Regions, education and workforce development is one of our top priorities for community engagement in Birmingham and in all the communities that we serve,” said King. “We were honored today to meet with several students who came through who had an interest in the financial industry and who recognized that the financial industry offers careers well beyond the bankers you see at the bank every day.”
The bank looks forward to working with an apprentice from Huffman High School, King said.
“We will be able to connect with him and share with him the different aspects that are involved with these (financial) positions and he will be able to share with us ways we can continue to build our relationship with employees of tomorrow and years from now,” he said.
The Birmingham Promise aims to combine secondary and post-secondary apprenticeships with college scholarships to steer students toward quality jobs. The initiative will use work-based learning opportunities in partnership with Lawson State Community College, Jefferson State Community Colleges, and Birmingham City Schools’ Career Academies.
The Jefferson County Commission on Economic Opportunity (JCCEO) and the City’s Office of Innovation and Economic Opportunity are also part of the program.
The following employers will participate in the Birmingham Promise pilot program this summer:
- Alabama Futures Fund
- Alabama Power Company
- Baptist Princeton
- BIG Communications
- Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Brasfield & Gorrie
- Encompass Health
- HOAR Construction
- Pack Health
- Renasant Bank
- St. Vincent’s
- Vulcan Materials