Addressing Huntsville’s Workforce Needs

July 10, 2018

By Lydia Pennington
Industry Relations Director
Huntsville/Madison County Chamber
lpennington@hsvchamber.org

Workforce is a hot topic in Huntsville due to recent economic development announcements in our region. Long before this wave of exciting projects and expansions, numerous community leaders and partners have been preparing the way and addressing the need for a skilled labor force.

Our outstanding educational partners such as the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama A&M University, Oakwood University, J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College and Calhoun Community College have aggressively thought ahead and are striving to meet industry needs. With the growth of our local economy, our colleges and universities are staying ahead of the curve with new technology, practical strategies, and a passion to meet this challenge.

This growth has spawned several new talent development initiatives. Non-profits, local associations and our educational institutions have created new opportunities that enhance the current efforts.

Calhoun Adds Classes

Just one example is Calhoun Community College’s new certification classes in manufacturing and construction that are being taught for free for those who qualify through the Adult Education department. “We are excited to partner both internally and externally to develop programs to meet the growing demand for workers in north Alabama while also working to find opportunities to fund programs for those who need financial assistance,” said Courtney Taylor, Calhoun’s Director of Workforce Solutions.

Credit: Amatrol, Inc.

The Alabama Manufacturing Certification combines several nationally recognized certifications and is designed for those looking to develop a good foundation of manufacturing processes and production, safety, maintenance awareness, and lean manufacturing principles. Students have the opportunity to test for the nationally recognized Manufacturing Skills Standards Council Certified Production Technician (CPT) and for the Six Sigma Yellow Belt Certification (CSSYB). Students will also participate in Ready to Work and Work Keys, in the 10-week boot camp. For more information, call (256) 306-2664 or email houston.blackwood@calhoun.edu.

“We are excited that we can now offer free national certifications to those who would like to enter the manufacturing and skilled trades,” said Dana Wolfe, Calhoun’s Director of Adult Education. NCCER, The National Center for Construction Education and Research, is a nationally recognized standardized credentialing program for jobs within the construction industry. This core curriculum boot camp is a free 4-week intensive program where trainees who qualify learn the basic skills needed to continue NCCER education in any craft area, studying modules such as Basic Safety, Communication Skills and Introduction to Construction Drawings. For more information, call (256) 306-2831 or email dana.wolfe@calhoun.edu.

UAH Offerings

The University of Alabama in Huntsville, a Tier 1 Research University, has a new interdisciplinary degree program within the College of Professional and Continuing Studies that is designed to meet the needs of working adults with prior college and/or military experience. Individuals can transfer up to 75 percent of their previously earned college credits, as well as credit acquired through military training, to earn either a Bachelor of Arts or Science degree in Professional Studies (BPS) from an accredited university. The BPS degree is available fully online, in the classroom, or a combination of both.

The degree program offers three concentrations: Leadership Strategies and Dynamics, Organizational Studies, and Technology-Science. In addition to their concentration, students learn to think critically, analyze and synthesize new information, work collaboratively to build diverse teams, and provide well thought-out solutions to an array of problems and issues, all while honing both their oral and written communication skills. Dr. Karen Clanton, Dean of the College of Professional and Continuing Studies adds, “Employers recognize capabilities that cut across majors as critical to a candidate’s potential for career success, and often view these skills as more important than a student’s choice of major.” Graduates of this specialized degree program leave UAH prepared with the pertinent skills and attributes that will allow them to reach their career goals. For information on UAH’s new Adult Degree Completion Program, visit UAHComplete.uah.edu or contact kellee.crawford@uah.edu.

With this unprecedented growth, there are new partners stepping up to help drive Huntsville’s talent forward. KTECH, Serving Hope, and the Home Builders Association are supporting this workforce initiative as well.

KTECH

In 2016, KTECH, in partnership with Siemens, opened its own lab offering Siemens Level 1 Certification in Mechatronics and the self-paced Solid Edge 3D CAD Modeling Certification. Since that time, KTECH has produced 32 graduates, with 71 percent of their students considered under-resourced and 29 percent being non-traditional students. Students can complete their Siemens Mechatronics Level 1 Certification in as little as 16 weeks or 6 months and receive college credit.

“Helping KTECH is the right thing to do,” said Peter Llewellyn of Siemens. He shares that the Solid Edge software can be a tool that provides a method to create and invent which compliments what KTECH is doing. “Ingenuity and innovation is not restricted to schooled engineers. Many inventions are quite logical and from people that just used their imagination,” Llewellyn added.

Sanmina has also hired many KTECH students. Carl Duckett, Vice President and Plant Manager of Huntsville Operations, said the program produces quality employees.

“Two needs are being met with one organization. There are people who need a career path through training and there are companies that need talented individuals to meet the demands of the growth the Huntsville area is experiencing,” said Duckett. “It truly is a win-win. The people who are graduating from KTech are top notch employees. They have had to work hard to get into a competitive program and then it is very hard work throughout the program. KTECH is a great asset to Huntsville, its people and its industry.”

KTECH uses a robot to cut the ribbon on its new robotics and soldering lab. (June 2018)

In June, KTECH unveiled its new robotics and soldering labs at a ribbon cutting where one of their machines cut the ribbon. “These labs are a result of industry telling us the skills they need and our commitment to produce employees who can fill jobs,” said Dorothy Havens, KTECH Workforce Director. In a very short amount of time, they equip students with a valuable skill set and support industry with competent employees. “We share the passion of making a difference in the lives of people we serve, and we believe in helping to jumpstart our students’ careers and to give older students an opportunity for a second chance in the work world,” Havens added.

For more information, email dorothy.kidstolove@yahoo.com. To apply for the KTECH program visit, http://www.kidstolove.org/application.

Serving Hope

Another non-profit addressing talent development is Serving Hope, Inc., a 7-month employment and workplace skills curriculum that focuses on the hospitality industry. They teach relevant job skills through “hands-on” instruction and provide students with valuable and diverse “on-the-job” experience at Cyn Shea’s Café and Catering events. Graduates earn the nationally recognized ServSafe Certification and receive job placement assistance.

This workforce development program provides opportunities to those in need of a “hand-up.” They enroll community members over the age 18, which include veterans, drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation program graduates, low-income individuals, and victims of domestic abuse. All students are issued a stipend for work performed during instruction while enrolled. After graduation, Serving Hope works with graduates and local businesses within the hospitality industry for job placement. “Each day is a gift and an opportunity to make a difference,” said Cynthia Shea Hart, Executive Director. “Regardless of circumstances, we believe that if our student is willing to do what it takes to change their life, we will provide that opportunity and the loving support to help along the way.” For more information, email info@ServingHopeinc.org.

Home Builders Involved, Too

The Huntsville/Madison County Builders Association, comprised of over 1,000 residential home building members, has made it a central initiative to focus on improving the construction workforce. “New home construction is critical to the growth of our community,” said Barry Oxley, Executive Officer. “We cannot continue to grow without attracting, educating, and placing technical skill tradespeople in careers to build our homes. This is our top priority as the Builder’s Association and the reason of our focus on the trades.”

The Builders Association highlights the importance of trades and educates others on the varied career paths available within this industry. They have started their own plumbing and gas fitting class that is State Board-approved and expedites the length of time it takes to sit for a journeyman’s exam and prepares students for that test. The inaugural group of students completed the program in May and the second group of students will begin class in August. The group meets once a week for 3.5 hours over the course of a year. Apprentices can apply by contacting john@hmcba.org or by calling (256) 536-2602.

Every industry in our community is experiencing tremendous growth, and it is a team effort to educate, train and propel talent forward. The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber is proud to collaborate with these workforce development initiatives, as well as the many others throughout our region. If the Chamber can support your workforce development initiatives, please contact Lydia Pennington at (256) 535-2083 or email lpennington@hsvchamber.org.

The Huntsville Madison County Builders Association donated plumbing and gas fitting code books to Madison County Schools for students to use during their course. 
Students celebrate the completion of the plumbing and gas fitters program at the Madison County Career Tech Center. They earned their apprentice card and NCCER credentials during their two years in the program, coming from different county schools to take the courses.