Montgomery School Trains Students to Fill Gap in Trade Workers


By Heather VacLav

Alabama is busy expanding its technical industry, but some labor experts say it’s difficult to fill the jobs with the right people.
Between businesses like Hyundai Motor Manufacturing, Hyundai Power Transformers, and the incoming Airbus Plant, industrial jobs are in high demand in our state.
This school year, Montgomery Public Schools opened MTEC, the Montgomery Technical Education Center to give opportunities to be trained and prepared to enter the workforce and fill those needed positions.
“If I have the experience and I know how to do this than maybe I'll get a job anywhere,” said Tytianna Davis, an 11th grade student studying welding at MTEC.
Davis joins about 200 other students, grades 9 through 12 to learn one of four free trades: welding, electrical, HVAC and carpentry.
“We definitely need more technically skilled workers in the workforce and coming straight out of high school would help tremendously,” said Richard Robinson, an electrical instructor at MTEC.
MTEC educational specialist Dr. Yvette Bynum oversees the collaboration of classroom instruction with trade hands on experience.
“There's a gap now where the skilled trades are entering the stage of retirement, they're ready to retire and we need new skilled workers to come into this workforce,” Bynum said.
Students spend three days a week in a classroom at MTEC, which operates in the old McIntyre Middle School building, and collaborate the other two days at Trenholm State Technical College.
“So what you'll see in some of the English classrooms are the kids are reading blueprints versus reading Beowulf for instance, so it makes it more hands on, more real world for the students,” Bynum said.
Robinson says the program will help his students go straight into work or onto another technical program or 4-year degree.
“With all the industry we have here now, they can go straight into Hyundai or one of their suppliers. With Hyundai Transformers coming into the area, they're offering a lot of opportunity, too,” Robinson said.
Some students believe the technical program could change their lives. 10th grade student Karlton Brown says MTEC offers him more than a welding trade opportunity, it offers a better life, to keep him out of trouble and off the streets.
“I had thought about it and I said it’s an easy opportunity for me to be successful in life and do something right,” Brown said.
The 2012-2013 school year, MTEC students will share their time learning at MTEC and using equipment at Trenholm, but next year, the program expects to offer those resources at MTEC.
Currently, there is a waiting list for students to enroll at MTEC, but the school encourages all high school students to sign up if interested, because it expects to welcome twice as many students next year.