READY TO WORK: CHHS students learn workforce essentials

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The ready-to-work program has grown significantly two years after CHHS principal Brock Kelley introduced the course in January of 2017.

When Kelley brought the course to the high school, it was the first of its kind in Alabama; the program was only offered at the community college level at the time. Since then, other schools and organizations have come to observe the program and implement it in their own curriculums.

“Our first class had about 15 students in it; now we’re running roughly 40 to 50 students throughout a year that will get certifications that will help them get jobs upon leaving high school,” Kelley said. “We’ve gotten a partnership with Golden Boy  and we’re continuing our partnership with Lockheed Martin. We’re continuously trying to grow and enhance our partnerships within the manufacturing community. What we offer is one of a kind in the state of Alabama.”

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Sonny Kirkpatrick leads the class at the high school, bringing in Lockheed Martin to bolster the program, which partners with AIDT (Alabama Industrial Development Training).

“We started talking to (Lockheed Martin representative) Adam Carson about a year ago trying to figure out how to incorporate Lockheed into our training,” Kirkpatrick said. “It is the exact same curriculum as their training, but there are some different aspects of their training that we were not able to do because we’re not a manufacturing facility.”

Last semester, the course culminated for students with a “truck build,” where students put their workforce skills to the test to construct a small, battery-powered truck.

“Our students now go through the exact same training as (Lockheed’s) potential new employees only need to pass a background check and they can be hired as soon as they graduate,” Kirkpatrick said.

Kelley said the course will continue to improve as the school administration continues to expand the course’s reach.

“We’re really excited about the future of this class, not only for our students, but the exciting things it offers for the community of Troy,” Kelley said. “We’re looking at making it available for students that have already graduated. Our goal is to help our students gain employment and the skills necessary for the workforce whether they go to college or the workforce right after high school … We’re trying to get whole community gathered around what we’re trying to do here.”

Krikpatrick said the course has been taken to a whole new level this spring.

“We’ve actually added another aspect to the class; we’re in the process of getting students MSSC certified,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s like the AIDT training on steroids. It has a much more in-depth curriculum and it’s going to be a lot better for our students; not that AIDT is bad, but this gives students another level of opportunities.”

Kelley said the hope is that the school system can provide the most opportunities for employment possible to its students, as well as enhancing the local workforce.

“Our ultimate goal is to give students the skills necessary to work, yes, but also to be a productive citizen inside the community of Troy,” Kelley said. “Our ultimate goal is when businesses and companies are looking to locate or relocate somewhere, the City of Troy can say CHHS is putting out 60 students with these certifications. It’s one tool the city can use to try to get these companies to come to Troy. They won’t have to worry about certified workers or skilled workers. We have skilled workers at CHHS, come to Troy.”

Kirkpatrick said it’s important to go beyond teaching traditional academics so that a wider range of opportunity is given to all students.

“It’s vitally important,” Kirkpatrick said. “College isn’t for everyone. There will be 3.5 million manufacturing jobs in the country and only about 1.5 million people to step in and work those. We’re giving our students opportunities to get ahead of the competition for those good, well-paying jobs. Any time we put our students ahead of others looking for work at same time, our students are going to have much better jobs not only providing for their families, but giving back to their communities.”

A partnership with the Sanders family of companies this fall is a new exciting development for the curriculum, Kelley said.

“We will be bussing our students over to Sanders next year to learn industrial maintenance and basically gain skills that will put our students at the front end of the hiring process out there,” Kelley said.

Even students that plan to continue their education at the college level have something to gain from the course, Kirkpatrick said.

“They can continue to pursue either route,” Kirkpatrick said. “If they get a job at Lockheed, Lockheed will actually pay for them to go to school. You get the benefits and everything that goes along with it and the majority of your schooling paid for. Even if someone goes to college, they’ll still have the certificates to be more competitive in the job markets after they graduate. It’s all about giving our students opportunities to get ahead.”