Baker talks workforce, aviation education in community colleges
During the Wiregrass-Fort Rucker Chapter General Membership Breakfast on Thursday, Aug. 24, Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker spoke about meeting workforce needs and possible changes to aviation education.Baker said he previously attended a meeting in Dothan where he learned schools were not providing the skilled workforce Alabama needed. He said community colleges are working to change that."That's an issue throughout the state of Alabama," he said. "The community college system is changing that story. We now are focusing a lot of energy, not at the price of academic training, but on the issue of skilled workforce."The thing we can do, we must do, is to provide a skilled workforce so that when (any mayor), when they go and sit down and talk with industry, they can offer an opportunity to come to a community where we have a skilled workforce."Baker focused on aviation industry and education, saying the students in this field needed to be taught more than how to operate machines."We just have not been doing a (good) job," he said. "It's not just about teaching a student how to operate a machine of some sort or to turn a wrench a certain way. It's about teaching those skills, but also teaching life skills so that when that person walks in and applies for a job, they conduct themselves properly. They go to work and they understand the process of being involved. They understand how they fit in that pattern."Baker said it was important to expose students to these skills, as well as those that will help students potentially join the work force."I think (community colleges) are in a position to move forward and do the kind of things that are necessary to move this state to where we are competitive on a national basis," he said. "We have the people, we've got the quality of people, we just need the right vehicle so people can have access to training and pursuing an education in a way to help improve their lives."He said community colleges are already working to bring that exposure to students in grades 9-12.Baker said he has spoken with a coalition of other college systems that are working toward developing a national curriculum for aviation education."Due to the determination to Steve Clouse and his authority... he managed to get us about $2.5 million to develop the aviation program at a different level than it currently is at," Baker said.He said the communities and the community colleges must work together to make the necessary changes in education in order to meet the need for a more skilled workforce."We must join hands and move forward, and we at the community college level must step up and provide the leadership that is necessary," he said. "Together, we will not fail. As we move forward, I don't expect anything but success."