In a region where automotive suppliers and other manufacturers cluster en masse, it’s a term frequently deployed by businesses, educators and legislators alike. The need to fill West Alabama’s skilled workforce pipeline with welders, technicians, computer programmers, all types of engineers and so many other skilled positions is great, and always increasing. That’s why programs that offer students the certificate programs they must have and also deliver the career opportunities they need are a critical component of the region’s workforce development efforts.
The University of West Alabama is a significant – and unusual – component in the workforce development arena. UWA has long offered a range of training programs, but cut the ribbon on the UWA Center for Workforce Development in the fall, affirming the University’s commitment to help drive economic development in the Black Belt region.
Traditionally, technical programs are offered by two-year and community colleges. UWA is in the unique position of being the only four-year university in the state of Alabama that offers a comprehensive technical program.
Dr. Donnie Cobb, Director of the Center for Workforce Development, explains that the program’s students are able to take advantage of the fact that they are UWA students to pursue a four-year degree, if they choose.
“All of the course work transfers,” Cobb says. “If they choose, they can complete the certificate program, or they can continue and obtain a BS in Technology, for example.”
Cobb explains many options are now available for students, including online course work, and an MBA program. “We’ve created a comprehensive system,” he says. “The new center has filled in the gaps, and now all of the pieces are in one place.”
Driven by Partnerships
The center, which is located at the Hunt Annex on the UWA campus in Livingston, was born out of a partnership with Mercedes-Benz to provide potential employees to the company. With the renovation and expansion of the center, the goal now is to develop relationships with a range of automotive suppliers and firms, and provide skilled workers across the region.
For the automotive industry, Instructor of Automotive Technology Curtis Jones says the facility has been renovated to handle up to 20 students in each class. “We want this program to grow,” Jones says. “A student who completes this certificate program can go to work for any company that repairs vehicles – a manufacturer or a dealership, for example. We have 100-percent job placement.”
The welding lab is brand new, and serves as an ESAB training facility. The UWA staff is currently growing this program, and plans to create an associate degree program for welding.
UWA’s certificate programs include programs on Automotive Engineering, Welding, Engineering and Technology. In addition to the automotive and welding shops, the Hunt Annex includes CADD (Computer-Aided Drafting and Design), computer labs, a pneumatics lab and a robotics lab.
Tying it Together
UWA’s Center for Workforce Development is a major piece of the puzzle for the university – not only in workforce development, but for the bigger picture. The university sees it as a component in their overall College to Career theme that is threaded throughout the entire academic curriculum. “Preparing students for every aspect of life is part of our culture,” says Johnnie R. Aycock. “We’re also working to revitalize the Black Belt.” Aycock says the university, under the leadership of Dr. Ken Tucker, is tackling the mission of bringing economic investment to the area.
Cobb’s department has taken on a multi-pronged strategy – in addition to sending students to great jobs, he’s committed to help establishing great careers in their home region.
“Many out-of-state industries, such as Metro Power out of Albany, Georgia, for example, like what they see out of our students, and they love to hire them,” Cobb says. “However, we have students coming out of Demopolis High School who would like to be able to study here, graduate, and then get a job and stay here near their family. We want to continue to bring companies like Georgia-Pacific and West Rock to this area to hire our graduates.”
To learn more about the University of West Alabama’s Center for Workforce Development, contact Dr. Donnie Cobb at (205) 652-3704. To learn more about the University of West Alabama, visit www.uwa.edu.
- Mechanical Engineering Technology
- Computer Networking
- Computer Programming
- AS Nursing
- Certified Nursing Assistant
- Soft Skills Development
- College to Career programs
- Work Keys Assessment and Testing
- Alabama Career Center office
- Automotive Engineering Certification
- Non-Degree Welding Certificate programs
- AAS Automotive Engineering Technology
- AAS Industrial Maintenance
- BS Engineering Technology
- BS Technology
- BBA Computer Information Systems
- AC/DC and Solid State Electronics
- Electric Motor Controls and Electromechanical Controls
- Programmable Logic Controls (PLCs)
- Computer-Aided Drafting and Design
- Geo-Spatial Information Systems