A foundation for the future

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 15, 2006

From the outside, the Marengo County Technology Center looks to be just another place for students to learn new skills.

But just a step inside the front doors reveals much more. It is a house of education, community service and a foundation for the future of Marengo County.

In order to draw industry, there must be a skilled workforce. Many times an area is looked over by a large-scale employer because they simply don’t have a workforce with the necessary tools to come in and start right away.

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Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Wesley Hill said career technology is a very important program because it gives students an option directly out of high school.

“Of course, career tech is something that is very important for students because a lot of them end up in that market when they finish school,” Hill said. “For many students, career tech is a logical choice because that is where most of the jobs are.”

Linden School Superintendent Walter Davis said the career technology program offers students an opportunity to learn several different trades and prepare them for the work force.

“It prepares them for the working world and teaches them to do a lot of different things,” Davis said. “It offers them classes from cabinet making, to healthcare science to electronics. We have a number of students in the program and I think it really does help them go out and find jobs.”

The Marengo County center recently received an extra boost, Davis said. With the boom in the automotive industry in Alabama, plants around the state are becoming some of the most attractive employers. Recently, Davis said, Hyundai donated the Automotive Technology center a car to work on.

A well-trained workforce can only help the areas chances of attracting new industry, Demopolis Industrial Development Board Chairman Jay Shows said.

“Of course the better trained or educated your workforce is always a plus when you are talking about attracting industry,” Shows said. “A career tech center lends itself to that.”

The skills students learn at the Linden center cover almost every area imaginable. Including healthcare. Nadine Rogers, the Health Sciences instructor, said they teach their students everything from bedside manner to life saving skills.

“We tech the students how to obtain vital signs and CPR requirements,” Rogers said. “We teach them all of the care they will need in order to get an entry level job so they can find a career in health care.”

The classes are held in a very realistic setting with very realistic patients, Rogers said. Manikens are used to teach students the proper way to lift and move patients. They are also given a specific name and chart, Rogers said, to keep students on their toes.

“One of the most important parts of healthcare is proper identification of the patients,” Rogers said. “You don’t want to do something on a patient that you are not supposed to do by getting the patients confused. They have the names at the foot of the bed and that helps them distinguish different patients.”

For students with an interest in the business world, there is another program. Business Marketing has proven one of the most popular programs through the years because of its extensive work with computers. Una Johnson, the center’s Business Marketing instructor, said the class is based around helping students learn programs such as Word, Excel and Power Point to make them attractive to future employers. They even learn programs to help fill out income tax forms.

The class is not all instructional, Johnson said. This month, advanced students are involved in a research project, which will allow them to give the class a presentation they put together from start to finish.

“Since this is Black History Month we are having some of our more advanced students do a Power Point presentation on two people involved with Black History,” Johnson said. “They are going to find two people that have made some kind of contribution to society and they are going to do a presentation on that.”

Students also have an opportunity to join Future Business Leaders of America and compete with other school systems.

Whether participants in the program plan to enter the business world or not, Johnson said, the classes offer them skills they need for life.

While learning is the top priority, the center also takes the time to help the community. Johnie Jefferson, an instructor in Family and Consumer Sciences Education, said her students were spreading a little holiday cheer this week.

“We are taking orders and making Valentines and we have made over 100 already,” Jefferson said. “We do a lot of community service programs around the holidays and throughout the year.”

During the Christmas holidays, students also made robes for Marengo Nursing Home, stocking for foster families and worked with victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Through it all, they gained valuable experience by working on industrial type machines, many of which are similar to those used at New Era in Demopolis.

Through the years, career tech and its importance have changed significantly. Everyone at the Marengo County center said they plan to do whatever it takes to keep up with these changes.

– rick.couch@demopolistimes.com