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Skilled to Work: New advanced manufacturing course prepares students for growing industry demand

30 students from around Limestone County participate in the initial cohort of the advanced manufacturing course.
30 students from around Limestone County participate in the initial cohort of the advanced manufacturing course.

The course at the Limestone County Career Technical Center began over the summer in 2018.

Posted: Mar 14, 2019 12:48 PM
Updated: Jul 30, 2019 10:43 AM

Nearly a thousand students come to the Limestone County Career Technical Center (LCCTC) every day.

However, 30 of them are doing something that didn't exist prior to this school year. They're taking part in a new advanced manufacturing course.

“We have advisory committees and councils and we answer their needs. So when they tell us there needs to be a change in curriculum or programs added we do that,” said Dr. John Wilson, director of the LCCTC.

New employment data released on Monday from the Alabama Department of Labor backs up that need. Over-the-year numbers show a 1.4 percent growth in the manufacturing sector. ADOL shows that there were 268,000 manufacturing jobs in January 2019 compared to 264,200 one year prior.

Shortly after announcing their new plant back in January 2018, representatives from Mazda Toyota Manufacturing came to the career tech school to see if a new course could be added.

“They’re a huge part of our advisory council because they’re speaking for not only Mazda Toyota, but also tier two and tier three companies that are going to be coming in to supply them,” said Wilson

So with a $45,000 contribution from Mazda Toyota and instructors from Calhoun Community College, the school launched a course sanctioned by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC).

Wilson told WAAY 31 News that the program came together quickly, but said there was a caveat.

“That was a huge challenge cause we started it in the summer. That program didn’t exist during preregistration last spring. We went to every high school, had parent meetings... held meetings in libraries and gyms and we filled it up,” said Wilson.

The course has four main components: manufacturing safety practices, precision measurement, quality control concepts and maintenance awareness

Tanner high school junior Javon Garth is part of this first cohort. He was excited to take a course that not only gives him dual enrollment credit, but also key certifications sought by industry.

“It’s only like a two-year program and after that, we can go to different jobs or work at Polaris or the new Toyota and stuff like that. So I was like, that’s the best opportunity I can have,” said Garth.

Representatives from Mazda Toyota visited the school back on January 31 to get a look at the program in action.

Vice President of Production Janette Hostettler said this hands-on approach will give students key skills to help them land good-paying jobs.

“What they’re teaching here is something that is going to live with the students and be with the students to be even that better, what I call, craftsmen and craftswomen,” said Hostettler.

Instructor Tony Pack calls the program a win-win.

“This is a great opportunity for not only Toyota Mazda that gets students that are beginning to be pre-trained for their jobs, but also educating the students for the jobs that are out there,” said Pack.

If you would like to learn more about the advanced manufacturing class or other programs offered at the LCCTC, click here.

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