Community colleges partner with associations, K-12 schools address labor shortage


In direct response to the need for more service technicians in Alabama’s multi-billion dollar forestry, poultry and egg industries, the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) is collaborating with Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) and the Alabama Poultry & Egg Association (APEA) on a new credential that provides training for high school agricultural educators and their students.

Training Alabama high school agriculture teachers for the new AFA-recognized maintenance technician designation began in late June in Auburn for more than 25 Alabama school districts across the state and will continue first through Wallace Community College in Dothan over the next year. The college will help develop a statewide task force to continue statewide professional development training at local community colleges.

The training certifies K-12 teachers to offer the service technician credential to students as young as ninth grade taking agriculture-based courses in Alabama high schools. The degree provides industrial maintenance training that students can use to pursue dual-enrollment vocational technical training courses with their local community college or to prepare for work in Alabama’s agricultural industry.

“Alabama’s community college system is committed to being the best option for students to receive a world-class, affordable education in the state. By partnering with Alabama businesses and industries and K-12 schools, we ensure students have the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy and meet the challenges of the hand. challenges facing our state,” said Jimmy H. Baker, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System.

“Agriculture is an extremely important industry for the state. We are proud that this professional development opportunity through our community colleges will help ensure that the education they provide in the classroom will continue to develop the trained professionals that Alabama’s agricultural industry needs.

The job growth rate in agriculture, fishing and forestry is expected to drop 2.6% in the state by 2024, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. According to the AFA, Alabama’s forest industry has an economic output of more than $28.9 billion and ranks among the top ten in production in the United States for lumber, pulp, paper/paperboard and wood panels.

“As early as 2026, the logging industry in Alabama could be 50% in revenue simply due to retirement and age, so we want to create a pool of skilled workers who can continue to create career paths for themselves. viable careers while ensuring that agricultural educators have access to their community colleges for hands-on experience or more in-depth theoretical training for their students,” said Maggie Pope, director of education for the Forest Workforce Training Institute at of the Alabama Forestry Association.

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“Creating a network of partnership between high schools, community colleges, and local industry is critical, and we are excited to work with the WCC to provide support and training for agriculture teachers across the state.”

According to the APEA, Alabama’s commercial poultry industry alone has an annual economic impact of $15 billion.

“We are thrilled to partner with the AFA, ACCS, and teachers of agricultural science education to help prepare the next generation to fill much-needed jobs in Alabama. Poultry businesses across the state have constant difficulty finding maintenance employees to fill important positions. This new credential will give students graduating from high school or community colleges a huge financial advantage,” said Ray Hilburn, Associate Director of APEA.

Jerad Dyess, agricultural science education specialist for the Alabama State Department of Education, praised the collaboration between Alabama community colleges and K-12.

“We appreciate the opportunity to create educational opportunities for frontline teachers who share the importance of agriculture in Alabama every day. We are also grateful to have so many supporting partners who help create these learning opportunities. We are committed to fostering the relationship we have with Wallace across the state so that more educators can benefit,” he said.

The collaboration with the Alabama Department of Education is one of many efforts by Alabama community colleges over the past year to support workforce development in the State. In March, the community college system’s Skills for Success program began training K-12 bus drivers for rapid school bus driver training. Dual-enrollment scholarships for vocational technical education, which benefit multiple in-state students, were introduced in 2021 with additional funding from the Alabama Legislature.

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