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School district forms new industrial engineering courses

Representatives from SMART Alabama, Dongwon, Crenshaw Chamber and Crenshaw County Schools discuss the formation of a new industrial engineering track for high school students during Thursday's meeting.

Representatives from SMART Alabama, Dongwon, Crenshaw Chamber and Crenshaw County Schools discuss the formation of a new industrial engineering track for high school students during Thursday’s meeting. JOURNAL PHOTO | MONA MOORE

Thanks to a new industrial engineering track in the works, students in Crenshaw County Schools will have the knowledge and skills to work in the automotive parts industry.

Still in the planning stages, the program is being designed with local companies in mind.

Crenshaw County Schools and the Crenshaw County Chamber of Commerce met with representatives from SMART Alabama and Dongwon Autopart Technology Alabama Thursday.

“This isn’t just designed for kids who are not going to college. This is for all students. It could be a stepping stone for trade school or anyone planning to go to a university,” said Robyn Snellgrove, of the Crenshaw County Chamber.

Richard Jordan, safety assistant manager at Dongwon, said he would like for students to be familiar with the types of jobs available at his company and the tasks those positions would entail.

“The problem we find is they have no clue what’s inside that building,” he said.

English said few people were aware of what was in Dongwon and SMART.

“I didn’t know,” he said. “I had no idea what was in that building. But, I’ll tell you, we are blessed to have you all in this county. I mean, it’s unbelievable.”

English’s recent tours of the companies inspired Thursday’s meeting and the proposed technical track he will introduce this fall.

“Two weeks ago, we didn’t even know we were moving in this direction,” English said.

He saw the potential of working closely with representatives from the industry and said the sky was the limit. English wants students who complete the course to earn certification in the industry. Once completed, they would have a seal that indicated the bevy of knowledge learned.

English suggested integrating tours of the plants into each semester of the industrial engineering track.

Human resource representatives asked that the courses emphasize soft skills.

“With most of the jobs in our facility, you can train to do them. We just need them to know how to get along with your neighbor,” said Grace Kim, a human resource specialist at Dongwon.

Debra Dunlap, also in human resources at Dongwon, recommended including cultural diversity in the program.

Gary Sport, SMART general manager, agreed. He could see the industrial engineering track consisting of two to four semesters.

“The first semester would teach soft skills they need, how to get noticed, how to get past that initial process. The second would be the knowledge needed inside the job,” Sport said.

Thursday’s meeting was to help the school district plan the curriculum and get a better idea of the knowledge students would need.

“That is where we are totally blind,” English said. “We need your help. We have standards when it comes to industrial engineering, but how does that apply to y’all?”

The next step will be to hire an instructor for the new program. English said the position might be filled as early as Aug. 3.