Philip Cleveland, the career and technical education director for the Alabama State Department of Education, said the Walker County and Jasper City boards of education , along with Bevill State Community College, need to work together to provide the best possible education to help with local workforce development.
“You don’t need to duplicate programs,” he said. “You need to get together and look at what each of you offer and find any gaps you might have. If you can work together, you can do so much more.”
Cleveland was invited to the area by Rep. Bill Roberts (R-Jasper) as a part of the legislator’s ongoing effort to find ways to improve career tech education in Walker County.
“We’ve managed to bring together leaders for local businesses and members of the boards of education so we can improve what we are doing,” Roberts said. “We are already doing good things in the county to develop our workforce, but we can always improve on what we are doing.
“Putting the student No. 1 and preparing them to make a living is why education exists,” Roberts added. “We have it all here. We just need to all get together and focus on workforce development.”
The committee Roberts has put together met for a fourth time on Friday. Much of the discussion between committee members and Cleveland was about the 21st Century Workforce Act, which calls for a $50 million bond issue for public schools to buy career and technical education equipment.
The bond issue would allow for $10 million to go to local school systems in proportion to the number of career technical teachers employed; $20 million to local schools in proportion to the number of career technical students; and $20 million would be placed in a new 21st Century Workforce Fund. Local school systems would have to apply for grants from the fund, and other monies would be used to reimburse local systems for purchases of career technical equipment.
Cleveland said the grant money could not be used for the construction of new facilities, but current facilities could be improved with the funds. He also said county and city school systems could team together to gain the funding and local community colleges can benefit if they partner with high schools on projects.
“If you put the student at the forefront of what your plan is, you will probably get approved,” Cleveland said. “If you guys can work together, you can do something special. You can do something that could be a model to others in the state and around the country.”
David O’Mary, chairman of the Jasper Industrial Development Board, said he is excited about the future of career tech education in the area.
“We’ve got all the players at the table,” he said. “I’m expecting big things to happen because of this group working together.”
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 22, at the Community Health Systems Activities Center in downtown Jasper.