New classes ahead for JDCC?

Published 2:00 am Wednesday, April 17, 2013

With the needs of industries changing, officials at Jefferson Davis Community College are looking at the possibility of new programs to serve those needs — not only with future workers’ skills, but with their work ethic.
JDCC President Dr. Daniel Bain said officials are working on providing the kind of workers most leaders say they want for their business and company.
“Leaders we talk to about workforce development say they want reliable, trained people who are able to be trained on the job and be a team player,” Bain said. “Those leaders are also looking for people who want to work and who have good verbal and written communication skills.”
Those same requests are being made at every educational level — technical and academic — and educators are moving quickly to provide the kind of workers industry leaders are looking for in an employee.
JDCC offers academic and technical classes on both its Brewton and Atmore campuses with the majority of technical training done on the Atmore campus. With an ever-changing world, there could be changes coming on either campus.
“Our leaders have been in discussions concerning opening additional resources to our students,” Bain said. “We want to conduct a survey of needs in our communities and do what is best for the people we serve. We do need to ensure sustainability in any program over a long period before moving forward.”
Bain said he has discovered some buildings on the Atmore campus are being underutilized and are a spot for potential growth in programs for students across the region.
“We are hoping to find ways to put that space to work to help the underemployed and unemployed people in our area with educational opportunities,” Bain said. “To that end, we are working constantly to determine our needs and our direction.”
One of the areas JDCC is looking at is culinary and hospitality, thanks to Wind Creek Casino in Atmore. But studies for new programs take some time, and there is also a lot of upstart cost associated with it.
Al Bennett, director of workforce development at JDCC, said the industrial/technical courses offered at the college, could be a good beginning for students — without that four-year degree.
“There wasn’t a lot of demand here for industrial employees until about 10 years ago,” Bennett said. “That’s when we started to get large factories down here. At that time some of the schools offered it, but not to a large extent.”
Bain said one area of instruction at JDCC could be a very lucrative field for potential employees who go into welding.
“Community college offers a lot more now than people may have anticipated,” Bain said. “Actually, any lady who wants a job in welding could come here, get that certificate and almost has a guaranteed job waiting on her. The world has certainly changed.”
Bennett said the certificate course of welding has been a popular one in recent years with many students finding great success in the field after a relatively short time in program study.
“People are crying for welders,” he said. “There is a vast need for welders in southwest Alabama.”
In an effort to help fill the needs of manufacturers, businesses and industries throughout the region, Bennett said the work of JDCC staff is aimed at finding them certificated or degreed students who are trained in specialized areas to meet those needs.
If a local manufacturer has a need for a specialized trade not offered by JDCC, Bennett said the school, through a statewide network of Workforce Development centers, can design a program to meet those needs.
“We can offer anything,” Bennett said. “If I have a customer who comes to me and asks ‘can you train students in underwater basket weaving…or whatever,’ we can do it.”
The path of increasing technical offerings at the community college level has been a growing process in the nearly 50 years of life for the higher-education facilities across the country.
“This year marks the 50th year for the community college,” Bain said. “That means for a half century, half of all the people enrolled in post-secondary education are in a community college. We want that to continue and to grow. That can only help our students, our businesses and industries, and our communities. People who are looking to improve skill sets, learn skill sets or refresh the skills they already have — the community college is the first choice of most of those people. More and more, the community college is simply the best choice.”