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Enquirer photo/ Jennifer R. Statham Human Resource Director of the Atlanta Electrical Contractors Association, Chuck Little visited with Hartselle High School ninth and tenth graders Dec. 2. He encouraged students to participate as he discussed comparisons of various career paths students could take after high school.

Cerrowire sponsors visitor to speak to students about trade, industry

A speaker from the Atlanta Electrical Contractors Association visited ninth and tenth graders at Hartselle High School Dec. 2 to make them aware of career options in trade and industry. “Everybody thinks there is only one path to a career and that’s four-year college,” said AECA Human Resource Director Chuck Little. 

The AECA is a chapter of the non-profit organization National Electrical Contractors Association, with the mission to “represent, promote and advance the interests of the electrical contracting industry, all of its branches, and the public it serves.” 

Little said he travels speaking to students to present them with all the options they need to make an educated decision about a career after high school. He covers five ways to a career path: A four-year college degree, two-year community college or technical school, military, straight to work or apprenticeship and trade school. 

Little shared with students that AECA represents about 50 different companies and 7,000 jobs. He said students who are interested in being an electrician can go into an apprenticeship program for a company, straight out of high school, and end up making up to $63,000 a year by the time they are 23 years old. In comparison, he said, the average four-year degree graduate has about $40,000 in debt at the time of graduation. 

“This message is one that I felt was something I wish I’d heard in that same time frame and one that I believe that a lot of people need to hear,” Stewart Smallwood, President of Cerrowire of Hartselle said. 

Cerrowire sponsored bringing Little to speak with students in the area.  

“At Cerrowire, we’re constantly looking for people and getting people into the entry-level positions and moving them up through the company. It’s tough because unemployment is very low. So we’re looking for high-quality people and his message is to give students an idea that there is more than one path other than college. You can get a good financial background and stability in some of these jobs,” Smallwood said.  

Smallwood estimated that out of about 350 employees at Cerrowire only about 50 of them would have some form of a four-year degree.  

“We would look more for people who have a technical degree,” he said. “So, they could come to work for Cerro, we would send them to Calhoun and they would get training.”

Technical training for Cerrowire,  he said, would include maintenance, mechanical, PLC fibers and robotics.  

Little shared with students that only about 24 percent of the workforce in Hartselle has a four-year college degree. He encouraged students to research apprenticeships associated with Apprenticeship Alabama, a program established by the Alabama Department of Commerce in 2017 to ensure “employers in Alabama have the tools needed to develop an industry-driven, Registered Apprenticeship (RA) program.” 

The Apprenticeship Alabama program, according to the website, “offers tax credits to companies that hire qualified apprentices who receive classroom or industry-specific instruction and on-the-job training. For workers, RAs offer opportunities to earn a salary while learning the skill trade necessary to succeed in high-demand careers.” The program focuses on five industry sectors targeted in the state’s strategic plan for growth, Accelerate Alabama: Healthcare, construction/carpentry, information technology, distribution/transportation/logistics and advanced manufacturing/industrial maintenance.  

Find out more about Apprenticeship Alabama at www.apprenticeshipalabama.org.