Local tech programs train for top jobs

Published 10:55 am Thursday, June 4, 2015

The number of technical jobs statewide outweighs the number of technical programs offered, and a local community college official said those technical programs help the community fill its job market.

Tammye Merida, associate dean of applied technology at LBWCC, said the most popular technical programs in which students enroll are industrial electronics, welding and diesel mechanics.

“We have a total of 18 programs,” Merida said.

LBWCC offers an associate degree for students who complete the industrial electronics course, and a certificate for those who complete the welding and diesel mechanics programs. Air conditioning and refrigeration also are programs classified as certificate degrees.

Students going into the air conditioning and diesel mechanic programs come in every August, January and May, Merida said.

For an associate degree, a student must complete 76 credit hours. A certificate requires at least 30 hours, but no more than 60. The welding program requires 23 credit hours.

Tuition is $113 per credit hour plus additional fees, including $9 each for building use, facility renewal and technology fee; and $1 for a reserve fee. Students who qualify can use Pell Grants to pay for the courses.

Merida said the enrollment numbers vary by program.

“Last year, for our industrial electronics program in the fall, we had 40-50 new students,” she said.

Right now, electronics is one of the high demand and high wage jobs, Merida said.

According to the Alabama Department of Labor’s April 2015 Region 10 monthly online job ads report, the maintenance and repair workers occupations had 39 ads posted. Region 10 includes Andalusia.

Alabama Department of Labor Communications Director Tara Hutchison said that within Region 10, the average hourly wage for a welder is $15.09; bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists make $18.44 per hour; and industrial machinery mechanics make $19.16 an hour.

The average state wages are higher. A welder in the state makes $17.99 per hour; bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists make $19.39 per hour; and industrial machinery mechanics make $24.14 per hour.

Like LBWCC, Reid State Technical College in Evergreen has technical programs geared toward getting people either back to work or helping them acquire better jobs.

Lynda Davis, the coordinator of business and industry training at Reid State, said in order to remain viable, the Ready to Work Skills Training program has to enroll 40 students each academic year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, or a fiscal year.

“For the program, we have to not only enroll 40 students per year, but we have to have a success rate at 40 percent or higher,” Davis said. “Right now, our students are sitting at a 50 percent plus success rate.”

According to the Alabama Career Center System’s website, there are 45 industrial electronic jobs open in the state; 255 unfilled welding jobs; and 133 available diesel mechanic jobs. These jobs are located regional and all over the state.