Chamber luncheon speaker addresses workforce development

Chamber luncheon guest speaker Philip Cleveland (fourth from left) was joined by Walt Fenn and Tommy Glasscock with the Chilton County Board of Education, Monty Gentry and Tom Sefcik of EBSCO Sign Group, state Rep. Jimmy Martin and Chamber President Van Forrester.

Chamber luncheon guest speaker Philip Cleveland (fourth from left) was joined by Walt Fenn and Tommy Glasscock with the Chilton County Board of Education, Monty Gentry and Tom Sefcik of EBSCO Sign Group, state Rep. Jimmy Martin and Chamber President Van Forrester.

The guest speaker at the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon on Tuesday focused on strides that have been made in the state’s workforce development.

Philip Cleveland, director of the Alabama Office of Career and Technical Education/Workforce Development, told those in attendance at Clanton First United Methodist Church that students in the state now have to take a career preparedness course by the end of their ninth grade year.

“What that course does is it provides students an opportunities for assessment, to look at their academic ability, their skills, their ability,” Cleveland said. “Where do I fit? How can I become better informed so my parents can become better informed about career choices?”

Cleveland said the value of the course was made apparent when his son, a ninth grader, came home and proclaimed that he wanted to be an underwater welder.

“What do you know about that?” Cleveland recalled asking. “I do this for a living but had never thought about exposing my son to underwater welding. It really opens the world up to them and exposes them to things they didn’t even know existed.”

Cleveland talked about the conversion of career tech centers to “simulated workplaces,” where students are given an employee handbook, clock in and out and earn a simulated paycheck.

“This is when learning becomes relevant and school has meaning,” he said. “We’ve gone out to industry and said, ‘Tell us what you want your potential employees to have when they leave our program.'”

Cleveland said graduates in the state used to be given one uniform test: the Alabama High School Graduation Exam.

“Now, it’s about college and career readiness,” he said. “Schools are measured on how many students are college and career ready.”

Cleveland said the local LeCroy Career Tech Center can boast of “the best night program that we have in the state.”

“I think you’re going to see that continue to grow,” Cleveland said. “We’re looking at return on investment. Why should we turn the lights off at 3 o’clock at the career tech center? Why not give adults the opportunity to skill up so they’re better able to provide for their families.”

Chilton County Schools Superintendent Tommy Glasscock spoke after Cleveland and noted the difference in perception of the career tech center compared to the past, when it was known as a trade school.

LeCroy has a cap of about 600 students, Glasscock said, and averages about 565 students on any given day.

“You’re going to seem more students want to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.

Glasscock introduced Monty Gentry and Tom Sefcik with EBSCO Sign Group; Walt Fenn (assistant superintendent), Allison Smith (administrative assistant) and Steve Yeargan (chief financial officer) from the Chilton County Board of Education Central Office; and Todd Davis, assistant director of LeCroy Career Technical Center.

The next Chamber luncheon, on May 5, will feature U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer.

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