LBWCC aids county in adult ed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 9, 2004

Lurleen B. Wallace Community College (LBWCC) has gone the extra mile to assure the residents of Crenshaw County are ready for the working world.

In mid August, LBWCC began teaching Focused Industry Training (FIT) courses in Luverne. Crenshaw is one of two counties the two-year institute offers FIT classes in. The other site is in Covington County in Andalusia.

"We had nine students that were state tested and of those nine, eight passed the state certification test," FIT Instructor Bubba Taylor said. "We had one student that went ahead and took her GED and passed it, we had another that had dropped out of high school and went back and took the exit exam, we had four people that were placed in jobs and of the nine we had two that went to junior college."

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Taylor said one of his FIT graduates was hired on with Luverne Tier One Hyundai supplier SMART earlier this week.

"We've had quite a success story out of our first class," Taylor said.

The FIT program creates career pathways for individuals with limited education and employment experience. FIT provides the skills required for entry-level employment with many Alabama industries and businesses.

FIT graduates become Alabama Certified Workers upon successful completion of the 10-week training program and earning a 70 percent or higher on a comprehensive examination that confirms their work skills and abilities that meet employer standards.

The curriculum is based on standards identified by Alabama business and industry employers as skills they seek in employees. The FIT curriculum includes: basic education, computer skills, problem solving, workplace behavior, manufacturing and job acquisition.

Terry Spicer, who serves as Dean of the Adult Education and Skills Training Division at LBWCC, said FIT classes help boost students' confidence and desire to work again.

"Every time that I come in and he has a class, you can tell the excitement in their faces by looking at the intensity of what they're doing," Spicer said. "I think you can tell a difference from the time they come in, from the time that they leave. They are a lot more confident and have a higher level of self-esteem because they might have been unemployed or a plant closure affected their life. When they come back in they get some confidence, they see some success and they're ready to go back to the workplace."

Gov. Bob Riley, Mercedes-Benz USI CEO Bill Taylor and Alabama's postsecondary Chancellor Dr. Roy Johnson created the FIT program. It is delivered through the Alabama College System and managed by AIDT, an organization in the Alabama College System that provides recruiting, screening and training services for companies creating jobs in Alabama.

"We put the program back into place and these companies are excited because when the students finish this program, they are certified by the state of Alabama," Spicer said. "They can carry that certificate into the site and the employer at least knows that they have those skill levels and are trainable in other areas. So they're all excited."

There are 34 FIT sites statewide located on two-year college campuses throughout the state. Some sites, such as Luverne's operate in city or community facilities.

Spicer said the FIT classes will help keep Crenshaw County natives employed at the new plants starting to get up and running.

"As we see these plants come into these areas, especially the smaller areas that LBW serves, those folks are going to take some of the top employees from other companies because the salaries and benefits are going to be lots higher," Spicer said. "When they do that we've got to be able to backfield those jobs. We've got to come back in and fill those jobs with other people. What we're hoping is we're going to be able to take some these folks who are unemployed for whatever reason and get them ready to go back in and get their confidence up and skill levels sharpened and put them back in the workplace to fill some of those positions."

Although the FIT program helps better the working skills of adults, it's not a shoe in for a job.

"This doesn't guarantee them a job, but these folks realize they have to do something to get in line," Spicer said. "These definitely gets them in line and in some cases bumps them to the front of the line, when the employers see they've gone through this program."

Korean 101

LBWCC is also assisting the Crenshaw County Board of Education with its adult education program.

Not only does the program target American adults who want to obtain a GED, but also Koreans who want to get better familiarized with American customs.

LBWCC recently spent $30,000 of its Adult Education funds to equipment the Luverne High School Ag building with 12 new computers, software, desks and chairs. The computers are to be used during the adult education classes and Korean adult education classes, but also by the Korean students that attend LHS.

"Most of the training that we do is computerized," Spicer said. "We have educational software that we use, so we had to upgrade what we had."

Before the new additions, the facility only had three computers. Sie Gearl Cho teaches the Korean adult education classes and Korean LHS students.

"There's lots of things that most of the folks in the area don't realize about the culture changes the Koreans are going through," Spicer said. "So we're able to offer, not only adult education, but also Mr. Cho is handling some day-to-day things that they run into such as how to operate and work with the American banks, things that come natural to us."

Laura Elliot, Adult and Community Education Supervisor for Crenshaw County Public Schools who also teaches the adult ed classes, said the response for the classes has been great.

"We have 24 on roll right now and it's going great," she said. "We've had a great response."

The classes are free and open to public. Students work at their own pace until Elliot and fellow teacher Mary Mitchell feel they are ready to take the GED.

"Our mission in Crenshaw County is to help with literacy for adults, to make sure they have opportunity to obtain GED's," Spicer said. "When we got involved with that, then we saw as the Koreans started to come in, that we wanted to help (Kathi) Wallace and the school board, so we were able to do that by using some of those dollars."

Spicer believes all of LBWCC's educational efforts will help attract more manufacturers down the road.

"We still haven't seen the last of the suppliers," Spicer said. "There are still suppliers that haven't been put into place, some of the Tier 3 suppliers. There are still lots of folks out there looking for places to land. Hopefully, what we're trying to do in our area is to really promote what we're doing through the FIT program and through adult education to hopefully attract more of these companies to us. Once you get these suppliers here, you've got to provide services for them and what we're trying to do is just that."