By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
The Alabama Community College System Innovation Center, a $10 million investment aimed at rapidly training workers for the state’s highest-demand industries, has launched its first of several industry-designed programs to help students find immediate employment.
ACCS leaders, students and industry partners kicked off the Innovation Center’s opening and demonstrated some of the training at an event on Monday at Barber Motorsports Park and Museum in Leeds.
The training includes short-term classes that students can start from anywhere in the state and finish with an in-person lab in a regional ACCS location. Once students complete the trainings, they are job-ready and are awarded a credential and an opportunity to earn more certifications at their local community college.
President of Lawson State Community College (LSCC) Cynthia Anthony said the Innovation Center will aid in the Birmingham area by providing for the existing needs of businesses and helping move the area toward the future.
“[LSCC] is excited about this opportunity to continue to connect with the great network of ACCS colleges through the Innovation Center. We are so glad to see the birth of this new center as it will showcase our creativity and our ability to meet the needs of our local industries and grant us access to partnerships that will aid in enhancing the opportunities we are able to present to our students and the community,” Anthony said.
Jimmy H. Baker, chancellor of the ACCS, said the training from this new initiative will allow people to get jobs without spending two years at community college.
“Every Alabamian deserves an opportunity to succeed in the state’s economy…we have found a way to expedite the training so we can move people more rapidly into the market,” Baker said.
The Innovation Center will enable residents to take their “credentials and either get to work or get promoted with the right skills for the job,” Baker said.
Earlier this year, the Innovation Center, with $1 million from Gov. Kay Ivey, put on a hospitality training program with Coastal Community College, which has campuses around southern Alabama. All graduates of the program were matched with jobs and hired, according to ACCS.
The ACCS also received funding from the Alabama legislature to develop the Innovation Center and expand skills training and career technical programs that lead to nationally recognized short-term certifications in high-demand industries.
In addition to hospitality, the first in-demand industries targeted for Innovation Center rapid training include butchery, commercial driver’s license (CDL), recreation, heavy equipment, plumbing and facilities maintenance.
Commercial trucking is a particular industry of concern for the program. While Alabama has more than 112 thousand truckers, Mark Colson, president and CEO of the Alabama Trucking Association, said the nation is facing a shortage of 80 thousand professional drivers.
“These are high-quality jobs offering great pay and endless career path opportunities…The ACCS Innovation Center is the right program to supercharge the availability of CDL offerings in our state and enhance the existing programs that are already preparing our future workforce,” Colson said.
For more information on upcoming trainings or for answers to frequently asked questions, visit innovation.accs.edu.