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Enquirer photo/Lauren Jackson Supertintendent of Hartselle City Schools Dr. Dee Dee Jones announces a new workforce development program at last night's city school board meeting.

New partnerships, new opportunities

Hartselle City Schools announce career readiness program launch

 

The start of a new career readiness program was announced yesterday at the Hartselle City School board meeting. The program consists of a partnership with local industries to allow students to work toward earning credit and compensation.

The program is titled Tiger Launch and features partnerships with Busche, Cerro Wire and Sonoco in the coming school year. The partnership will allow the 21 enrolled students to attend classes the first half of their school day, and to work within one of the industries for the remaining part of of their day.

“The bottom line is the kids will go to school in the morning and take their core classes. They will have a class with us that is basically a soft skills class,” says Jeff Hyche, principal at Hartselle High School, “It is learning to be a good employee, because if they are not told, they can not be expected to learn it.”

The program has been in the development stages for the past year, and has aims to continue to grow in the coming years. “We are very excited for this project. This has been a dream- we really appreciate these partnerships,” said Superintendent Dr. Dee Dee Jones.

The soft skills class will feature various work ethics training and offer students guidance in their job. The class is part of the Ready to Work curriculum provided by the state. The school has received a grant to help in implementing the program.

“The class is critical for the success, without the class it would not be a success. We can keep our thumb on them, we can troubleshoot, we can help them- it is almost like job coaching,” Hyche said.

In addition to benefiting the students, the program will also help the industries complete necessary work. “Our benefit is being able to reach out into the community and support our local school system,” Sonoco’s Todd Whatley said. 

Sonoco is the largest employer in the area, employing 300 people from the Hartselle community. The company makes reels for various manufacturers.

“We are looking forward to this relationship and just getting these kids into the work environment,” said Robert Kelly with Busche. Busche serves as a third party machiner for the auto industry. According to their website, the Hartselle location makes carriers, brackets, housings, knuckles, covers and control arms.

Billy Kennedy with Cerro Wire echoed the excitement surrounding the partnership. “We did have some start this summer. It is going well and we are excited to have them,” he said. Cerrowire manufactures wires and cables that serve commercial and residential builders. 

The students participating in the program can also continue their employment after graduation. The companies will offer employment upon graduation, and even help pay for career technical training at Calhoun Community College.

“The companies would like to keep them while they go to school post-secondary. They will work it out with them,” Hyche said. 

The program is mirroring a similar program at Florence High School called 12forLife. After several visits to Florence to observe the program, Hartselle City School administration made some adjustments to create Tiger Launch.

“We will be the first in Morgan County to have anything like this,” Jones said. “We hope that others can replicate it for their students.”

Tiger Launch will be officially begin in August, and there are plans to continue developing it in the future. Eventually, administration aims to have two shifts for students to work to accommodate a larger class and there are plans to add more programs to the vocational building.

Sonoco is creating an assembly line in the old vocational building at Hartselle Junior High School where the program will be headquartered.

During the planning process, Hartselle City Schools reached out to the industries about the partnership. “They see this as a great opportunity to give back to the community.Whether those kids work for them the rest of their lives or not, they know that they are being part of creating good employees,” says Hyche, “they also get necessary work, this is important work. It is a ‘grow your own’ program for them as well.”

In addition to the program, the school is also offering two new classes that can count as college credit. The classes are Intro to Manufacturing and Advanced Manufacturing. Students that complete the classes will graduate with a certificate showing 12 credit hours from Calhoun Community College. The classes will be taught tuition free and on the high school campus. Although separate programs, both will offer students ways to graduate with credentials that they can take with them when entering the workplace.

The programs were both created to meet the workforce need in Alabama. They are joint efforts to change the culture towards more workforce development. Although there are shortages of qualified workers, more students are convinced that college is the only opportunity to advance. “You have to talk about it and make it a priority. You have to change the culture,” Hyche said.

Hyche added that for Hartselle City Schools, part of changing the culture is beginning and growing the program for students. Through offering more opportunities and more programs educating students about industry and job demands, they hope that they can change culture one student at a time. “This is a career move- it is a career builder. Things will only go up from here,” Hyche said.

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