In direct response to the need for more maintenance technicians in Alabama’s multi-billion-dollar forestry, poultry and egg industries, the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) is collaborating with both the Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) and Alabama Poultry & Egg Association (APEA) on a new credential that provides training to high school agriculture educators and their students.
Training for Alabama’s high school agriculture teachers for the AFA’s new, industry-recognized maintenance technician credential began in late June in Auburn for more than 25 Alabama school districts across the state and will first continue through Wallace Community College in Dothan over the next year.
The college will help develop a task force across the state to continue the professional development training statewide at local community colleges.
The training certifies K-12 teachers to offer the maintenance technician credential to students as young as ninth grade who take agriculture-based classes at Alabama’s high schools. The credential provides industrial maintenance training that students can use to continue through dual enrollment career technical education classes with their local community college or to prepare for work in Alabama’s agriculture industry.
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“The Alabama Community College System is committed to being the best option for students to receive world-class, affordable workforce training in the state. By partnering with Alabama businesses and industries and K-12 schools, we are making sure students have the skills to succeed in today’s economy and addressing the workforce challenges our state faces,” said Jimmy H. Baker, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System.
“Agriculture is an incredibly important industry to the state. We’re proud this professional development opportunity through our community colleges will help ensure that the instruction they provide in the classroom will continue to develop trained professionals that Alabama’s agriculture industry needs.”
The growth rate of farming, fishing and forestry employment occupations are expected to drop 2.6 percent in the state by 2024, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. According to AFA, Alabama’s forestry industry has an economic output of more than $28.9 billion and ranks among the top 10 in production within the U.S. for lumber, pulp, paper/paperboard and wood panels.
“As early as 2026, the forestry industry in Alabama could have 50 percent in turnover simply due to retirement and age, so we want to create a pipeline of qualified workers who can continue to create viable career paths for themselves while also ensuring that agriculture educators have access to their community colleges for hands-on experience or more in-depth theory training for their students,” said Maggie Pope, director of Education for the Forest Workforce Training Institute within the Alabama Forestry Association.
“Creating a partnership network from the high schools to community college to local industry is key, and we’re excited to work with WCC to provide support and training to agriculture teachers statewide.”
According to APEA, Alabama’s commercial poultry industry alone has a $15 billion annual economic impact.
“We’re thrilled to partner with AFA, ACCS and agriscience education teachers to help prepare the next generation to fill much needed jobs in Alabama. Poultry companies across the state have continual difficulties with finding maintenance employees to fill important roles. This new educational credential will give graduating high school or community college students a huge advantage financially,” said Ray Hilburn, associate director of APEA.
Jerad Dyess, Agriscience Education Specialist for the Alabama State Department of Education, lauded the collaboration between Alabama’s community colleges and K-12.
“We are appreciative for the opportunity to build educational opportunities for the frontline teachers who share how significant agriculture is in Alabama each day. We are also grateful to have so many supportive partners who help create these learning opportunities. We are committed to fostering the relationship we have with Wallace statewide so even more educators can benefit,” he said.
The collaboration with Alabama’s Department of Education is one of several efforts Alabama’s community colleges have taken over the last year to support workforce development in the state.
In March, the community college system’s Skills for Success program began training K-12 bus drivers for rapid school bus driver training. Dual enrollment scholarships for career technical education, which benefits several students in the state, were introduced in 2021 thanks to additional funding by the Alabama Legislature.