West Fraser and education leaders tour sites, discuss local needs

Published 1:15 pm Monday, February 21, 2022

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By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

Determining what skills are needed for Chilton County students to work in local industries is at the heart of a series of tours the Industrial Development Authority has coordinated for Chilton County Schools administrators and counselors.

A recent event took these educational leaders on a tour of West Fraser Timber in Maplesville.

Welders and those who can work on electrical equipment were specifically mentioned as job opportunities at the mill.

Maplesville High School Principal John Howard said it was his first time visiting a mill, and it “was a very good experience to see how automated it is now … how efficient it is.”

“I think the biggest need is to see what we can do on our end of teaching the basic skills of professionalism and how to manage themselves in the workplace, so that when they do enter the work place, they have those social skills necessary to be successful,” Howard said.

He said many of the soft skills needed can be emphasized both in the classroom and through other school activities.

Representatives from West Fraser were able to tour the welding and electrical programs at LeCroy Career Technical Center to get an idea of what students who complete the program can do.

“They did a tour of the plant to see what we did, so we want to see what they offer to send to us,” Dale Mims of West Fraser said.

Mims stressed the important of potential employees “knowing how to present yourself.”

LeCroy Career Technical Center director Dr. Shannon Walker said these soft skills, safety and some of the other core skills needed for any industry job, such as how to read a tape measure, are highlighted in each of LeCroy’s programs.

“This year, we are making a conscious effort to have local business and industry come out, so we are trying to bridge that gap between high school, college and career and business and industry,” she said.

At LeCroy, Mims found each of the teacher’s presentations to be “very informative.”

“We have hired some guys that have come through some of these classes,” Mims said. “So, that is one of the things we are looking at is letting people know we are there, and we are needing good workers.”

Walker said she hoped having representatives from local industries come talk to the students would show them that good paying jobs are available in Chilton County.

“They think if they are going to start out making high wage, high demand that they’ve got to go to Montgomery or Birmingham, and they do not,” Walker said.

Career coach Sjohna Hughes said the various programs at LeCroy prepare students for future careers and help them decide what they will do after high school.

Howard said touring LeCroy was beneficial to have good information to present to 10th grade students as they are considering applying to a program.

In addition to administrators from LeCroy and Maplesville, a counselor for Chilton County High School, administrators from Thorsby High and Verbena High, career coaches, CCS Superintendent Jason Griffith and members of the Industrial Development Authority also participated in the tour day.