Wallace State cuts ribbon and opens doors to new Workforce Training Center
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday, Nov. 29, to commemorate the opening of Wallace State’s new Workforce Training Center located on the grounds of REHAU’s automotive manufacturing facility in Cullman.
The Wallace State Workforce Training Center will provide facilities for training programs and services offered by the college’s Center for Career and Workforce Development. The site will provide a central location for classes for individuals and training for business and industry. Through the new center, Wallace State aims to provide comprehensive and industry-relevant training experiences that bridge the divide between education and employment.
“The Community College System is the best vehicle to bring about significant change in the lives of so many people,” said Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker.
“It’s our job, the job of the Alabama Community College System, the job of your local community college, and your job as good citizens to help people find a way to make their lives better,” he told the audience. “This community is great because people have made it great. As we go forward let’s all pledge to be supportive of improving the lives of our neighbors, and to building a community that is even bigger and better than it has always been.”
Baker thanked the Alabama Legislature for its support in making projects like these possible across the state.
In addition to Chancellor Baker, Wallace State President Vicki Karolewics and several speakers representing Wallace State, state and local government and local industry shared their remarks, expressing excitement for what the new facility could provide for the community. Speakers included: Rep. Randall Shedd, Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs, Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Dale Greer, Wallace State Vice President for Advancement and Innovation Suzanne Harbin, Executive Safety Director at R.E. Garrison Trucking Tracy Rushing and Jimmie Hale Mission Director of Programs Jeremy Sturdivant.
“This Workforce Training Center is a gamechanger. It’s a goal that we’ve had for a number of years. Not only does it make training more geographically accessible to our industry partners, but it also provides the essential training space flexibility needed for a wider range of customized training for business and industry,” said Dr. Karolewics. “Our theme for today is ‘workforce ready’ because as one of Alabama’s most ambitious community colleges, that is our mission. To assure that our region’s workforce is ready for the high-demand, high-wage jobs that are so plentiful here.”
“Wallace State is growing in the ways it needs to grow,” said Rep. Randall Shedd. “I believe very strongly in our community college system. And I commend you, Dr. Karolewics, for putting together the partnerships that make these things happen. This facility is phenomenal.”
Rep. Shedd announced $250,000 in funding by Lt. Governor Ainsworth for this project and Wallace State’s partnership with the Cullman County Board of Education and the Cullman Area Technical Academy on several pathway programs.
“We’ve been working on this for a long time. It’s greatly needed for the industries we have,” said Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs.
“Wallace State is now in my district in the City of Cullman,” he said.
Through its Pro Skills Pathways program, the Wallace State Center for Career and Workforce Development offers short-term training to earn credentials that students can use to get a job, advance in their current job or use as credit to transition into an academic credit-bearing program at Wallace State.
Some of the current workforce opportunities offered at the center include phlebotomy training, computer office training, fiber optics training, robotics training and manufacturing training. Classes for certified nursing assistant training, medication assistant certification and pharmacy technician training are also planned to be held at the center starting in spring.
The center provides designated spaces for training programs that correlate with the pathways that Wallace State Community College offers for students as they begin their college career. These pathways include liberal arts/general studies, applied technology, health science and S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and math).
Greer, a Wallace State alumnus, praised the efforts of the Wallace State administration and the Center for Career and Workforce Development. He said their contributions have affected the overall economic progress of Cullman County.
“Wallace [State] and the flexibility of the workforce training they can provide has been a critical piece of our success in economic development for years. This community is among the best in Alabama when it comes to expanding industry and everything associated with that,” said Greer. “Dr. Karolewics, Suzanne Harbin and their workforce team have a remarkable record of working with industry and I think their flexibility in listening to what companies are looking for and designing training for them has been special."
Space will also be available for use by area businesses who need facilities for employee training. Also on site is a lab where students can complete online training for the Skills for Success program. Developed in 2022 by the Alabama Community College System’s (ACCS) Innovation Center, the Skills for Success program provides rapid, no-cost training for technical jobs across the state. The program was developed in partnership with Alabama businesses and industries to better align with the skills that employers seek in workers looking to fill vacant jobs. Part of the Skills for Success training is offered online, with interactive learning that is self-paced.
Upon completion of the online coursework, students then complete hands-on training with qualified instructors. Participants who complete training earn an ACCS Credential, which signifies to businesses that the individual has mastered the skills taught in the program and is ready for employment. The ACCS Credential can also be used as a foundation for additional classes and training at Alabama community colleges. Additionally, courses are also available to high school students for a career readiness indicator (CRI) credit that can count towards high school graduation. Some of the free courses offered at the Workforce Training Center include Class A and B CDL, heavy equipment operation, hotel operations, fiber optics maintenance and food and beverage services.
“The growth that we have experienced, and we continue to experience, in this last decade can be attributed to the powerful partnerships across education, economic development, our local state and national government officials, state and local nonprofits and our essential partners in business and industry who choose not only to locate here in our community but also continue to expand and grow here,” said Harbin. “The Workforce Training Center is a significant step forward in our commitment to empowering individuals and fostering economic growth within our community. As we celebrate this milestone with a great sense of pride and optimism, it is a symbol of our commitment to progress knowledge and community development.”
- Kristen Holmes
- Vice President for Students and Chief Marketing Officer
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