Shelton, UWA is a good marriage

Published 10:55 pm Friday, March 11, 2011

This week, Shelton State Community College announced that it would join the University of West Alabama at the Demopolis Higher Education Center.

The two-year college will offer technical and workforce development programs not currently offered by UWA.

Shelton State’s arrival fills a void left by Alabama Southern Community College’s departure from the facility in 2009.

Email newsletter signup

The University of West Alabama and Shelton State have a history of collaboration, which includes several truck driving and industrial technology programs.

Among the courses anticipated to be offered by Shelton State include electronics, welding, industrial maintenance and areas of other technical fields.

UWA will continue to offer academic courses, from basic curriculum to graduate courses, at the Higher Ed. Center, while expanding the wildly successful dual enrollment and continuing education programs.

The DHEC has become quite a coup for the city and region and has attracted the attention and partnership of some of the state’s most respected colleges and universities since its founding.

That Shelton will play a key role in developing the trade skills of the next generation of labor force is important to this region and its development.

I’m sure many of you recall Mike Rowe’s commercial campaign a while back about “Build Alabama.”

It’s no secret that Alabama’s craftsmen and women are aging but fewer and fewer young people are entering the workforce to replace them.

Teachers and parents have drilled the importance of a good education into young minds for years. And they’ve done such a good job that more and more students are entering college and earning “white collar” degrees. That’s great news.

But, on the flip side of the coin students who previously would have picked up a hammer or a welder are picking up degrees in Business, Marketing or some other field.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that other than it’s depleting a vital workforce in Alabama. There’s long been a stigma that trade jobs aren’t as good as “office jobs.” That’s a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side” talk if you ask me.

I graduated high school with several guys who are currently plumbers, welders, electricians and other craftsmen. By the time I finished college, they already owned a home. To-date, their earning potential outpaces many of my other friends who currently hold bachelor’s, and in some cases, masters degrees.

Labor force economics rarely weights education over skill. If you have a skill, perform that skill well and market it, you’ll do just fine.

I’m excited to see such a diversification of educational offerings here in Demopolis. The world needs more bright young minds programming computers, running newspapers, working in the emergency room and managing giants of industry just as much as it needs the men and women who built the buildings from which they work.

Jason Cannon is the publisher of The Demopolis Times.