Over 150 guests from Wiregrass businesses, industries, schools and government filled Enterprise State Community College’s multipurpose room for the first-ever Workforce Development Summit on Feb. 6.
ESCC President Matt Rodgers opened the summit by welcoming all the guests to ESCC and discussing some of the upcoming projects ESCC is planning. These included a new performing arts center, a center for advanced technology, renovations to both Ozark and Enterprise campuses as well as new programs such as industrial maintenance.
“We understand your needs, and we’re trying to create curriculum that is going to serve you,” Rodgers said. “At the end of the day, that’s what we’re here for.”
New Brockton native and Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker spoke about the Wiregrass’ economic potential if all the audience members worked together.
“This is probably the first time—that I’m aware of—that this kind of community has been pulled together,” Baker said. “You would be unbelievably surprised if we can find a way to work together to make sure that we are ready to accommodate the requests of any industry that comes to this area. Let’s all come together, figure out what we can do and then let’s do it and let’s make this part of the state a booming job producing environment that we need in the state.”
ACCS Vice Chancellor of Workforce and Economic Development Jeff Lynn said that the state is going through a severe shortage in a qualified workforce for middle-skill jobs. He said that the ACCS and ESCC are focusing on creating programs and pathways to train a workforce to fill these open positions.
“Our job, in essence, is to create this pool of qualified applicants to select from,” Lynn said. “We need to work with these companies and find out what their criteria is and—based on our curriculum, teachers and schedules—recruit those students, get them prepared and have those companies be successful.”
ESCC Dean of Instruction Danny Long highlighted some of the programs that are offered by ESCC and its Alabama Aviation College to create a trained workforce, including the airframe technology program, the power plant technology program, the CDL program, the upcoming industrial maintenance program, the medical assistant technology program, the new IT auditing and assurance program, SWIFT app development program, and machine tooling program.
ESCC Director of Workforce Development Ian Campbell touched on the noncredit training options. These programs give businesses and industries another option to continue the training and education of their employees. He said that these programs show ESCC’s commitment to developing and continued development of a skilled workforce.
“You (local businesses and industries) are the engine to our economy,” Campbell said. “If your operations fail, our vehicle goes nowhere. We want to be responsive to your workforce demands and we want to lead the way in filling the skills gap that you are experiencing now.”
The event ended with a Q&A session with Campbell, Lynn, Baker, Long and Rodgers.
Campbell said he felt that the summit was a success and that ESCC will continue to hold these summits as long as the workforce demands it.