Opportunity knockingPublished 10:01pm Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Note: This is the first in a series of articles addressing the state of workforce development in the Atmore area.
The new Airbus assembly plant in Mobile is scheduled to break ground Monday, and with the factory will come new manufacturing and technical jobs – and students at Escambia County High School know it. “I’ve never known a time in my life when welders weren’t in high demand,” ECHS teacher and former contractor Kenny Revel said.
Revel has taught various career tech classes at ECHS for 16 years, but for the last two has been in charge of the school’s new carpentry and carpentry for commercial specialties class, which includes an introduction to welding course. “This class teaches carpentry and welding is a part of it,” he said. “We don’t get into the upper levels of it now, but we cover the basics.”
And the basics, Revel said, are enough to give students in his classes a jump on the competition when it comes to landing high-paying technical jobs after high school. “They will need more training,” he said. “But if they do this, it gives them a solid base for good, entry level jobs.” Revel said the class includes levels that, upon completion, his students will receive a card designating they have passed.
“They can take that card to an employer and show them that they have already passed the basics and the employer will know, ‘hey, I don’t have to train this person on the basics,’” Revel said.
Most students do need more on-the-job training, however, or they need more education at a technical school. But some can get jobs right out of high school if they can get on-the-job training.
Revel and Assistant Principal Sarah Watkins said the state of Alabama has handed down new mandates for programs such as theirs.
“The state is getting involved,” Watkins said. “They have changed the curriculum.”
That change, they said holds their program accountable to standards set by the National Center for Construction Education Research, which sets the bar for whether or not a student has passed the course, and can therefore receive a certification card.
“It’s not like other subjects where they can pass with a 60,” Revel said. “They have to make at least a 70 to get a card that they can show to any employer in the country. The more modules they pass, the less the training they will need after high school.”
Revel said, so far, enrollment in the classes has been fair, but said he is expecting a big increase as jobs in and around the Atmore area become available. “There are good jobs out there in this,” Revel said. “Hopefully,” Watkins added, “more kids will start to see that.”