Bentley announces education task force

By KATIE MCDOWELL/Lifestyles Editor

COLUMBIANA – Gov. Robert Bentley announced the formation of the Governor’s College and Career Ready Task Force during a visit to the Shelby County School of Technology on Jan. 15.

The task force will work with the education and business communities to ensure public school students learn the skills needed to enter the workforce following graduation.

“I’m asking business leaders to routinely share the types of skills that are needed in today’s workplace,” Bentley said. “I think business and the education community working together will help us turn out the type of students and the type of workers that we need when trying to recruit industry in the state of Alabama.”

The task force will include representatives of K-12 schools, post-secondary schools and the business community. Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey, House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield will serve as co-chairs of the task force.

Bentley said school systems across the state, including Shelby County, have similar efforts in place, but the state’s task force will “organize and bring everybody together.”

“The goal of this task force is to unite our efforts and establish a coordinating effort of preparing students,” he said.

He said the statewide effort will educate students about the variety of jobs available to them, whether or not they go to college. The task force will also identify the types of skills that Alabama industry and businesses seek in new hires.

“The result is more students will be college ready or they will be career ready, and more people will be able to find a well paying job in the state of Alabama,” he said.

Bentley praised the Shelby County School of Technology, as well as the Shelby County School System’s “My Future” program, which works with Birmingham businesses, the Birmingham Business Alliance, local colleges and parents to help prepare students for the workforce.

“You’ve already set the model for us,” Bentley said.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller, who introduced Bentley during the press conference, said the school system’s goal is to be “a model of excellence for education.”

He said the My Future program has been a success with school administrators identifying needed jobs in the Birmingham area and then creating school programs to train for those jobs. School administrators have also met regularly with instructors from the University of Montevallo and Jefferson State Community College to discuss the best way s to help students transition from high school to college or the workforce.

“We’re integrating into our academic curriculum the essential skills of work ethic, collaboration, leadership and problem solving,” he said. “The collaborative work is really showing some benefits for us.”

Two Shelby County School of Technology students, Lauren Riley and Caleb Criss, also spoke about their experience at the school.

Riley, a Pelham High School student who takes welding classes at the SOT, said she first learned about the school during a girls’ engineering camp held there several years ago. Since then, she has shadowed professional engineers at their jobs and begun taking classes through the University of Alabama’s early College program.”

“All of my achievements were thanks to the School of Technology because it sparked my interest in engineering and welding,” she said.