Students receive hands-on learning at World of Works

Published 9:15 am Saturday, November 26, 2022

The Southeast Alabama Worlds of Work program made its second-ever stop in Andalusia last week with over 2,400 seniors and career tech sophomores engaging in over 60 hands-on activities.

Southeast Alabama Works is a regional workforce council that covers 10 counties in the southeastern portion of the state. The WOW West tour at the Kiwanis Community Center and Covington Arena consisted of several regional businesses connecting with students from Butler, Coffee, Covington, Crenshaw, and Geneva counties. Students from Andalusia and Opp City Schools also attended this year’s event.

“In 2016, we had a group of volunteers heavily involved in workforce development and the community who heard about an event in Mobile. They decided to do the same event and started the program in Dothan with a group of volunteers. Because we have 10 counties, it can be very difficult for students and businesses to travel, so we decided to bring this event to Andalusia. We split and had the five westernmost counties of our region in attendance for this event,” said Southeast Alabama Works Executive Director Ann Marie Carr.

A change was made after students in eighth and tenth-grade career tech attended the event last year. “We heard from employers who say they really needed help. We decided to allow seniors and tenth-grade career tech students to come this year.”

Carr added that the event primarily focuses on industries most relevant to the region.

“We have a lot of health science, information technology, professional services like businesses and insurance, the Lower Alabama Arts Coalition, and WSFA’s TV station for broadcasting and public communications. We also have utility partners, military recruiters, and several manufacturers including aviation and Smart Alabama who builds cars. The goal is to show our students what is available, that they can achieve it, and stay right here. We need that talent right here in our hometowns.”

WOW strives to offer several opportunities for students.

“We are going to continue reaching out to eighth-grade students because they need to know what to do as they enter their high school courses to prepare. Not all high school students are aware of what career opportunities are available. Even some educators don’t know that our program exists. We want them to think about how they can plug into a company or school to start my career path,” she said.

According to Carr, new software called Career Fair Plus was put into effect this year.

“As our businesses registered, we put them online. A lot of our kids went online and created profiles. We are trying to encourage that interaction between the employer and the student. The same thing applies to the colleges and students. We hope to bring a lot of them back together after the event. We hope they take a little bit more knowledge with them than before they came. We hope they will go home and talk to their parents about why they came and what opportunities and careers they were shown.”

As a former teacher, Carr stated she wants to offer the same opportunities to all students. “For me, our team is all about leveling that playing field. We are passionate about changing lives and want everyone to feel like they have hope. We want to make our communities a better place to live and these kids to know there are people invested in them and care about them wanting them to do well,” she said.

Individuals, businesses, and colleges interested in becoming a part of the WOW event can email me at acarr@southeastalabamaworks.com or visit our website at southeastalabamaworks.com.

“We are all about helping others because at the end of the day, we are partners building a better community. We hope to continue this event every year and would love to have more businesses participate. We need young people’s talents and minds with all these changes in technology,” Carr said.