Personnel at Northeast Alabama Community College (NACC) continue their long-time mission of expanding opportunities in workforce training, and in recent years have seen substantial growth in the number of women going into nontraditional workforce fields, such as welding. NACC, through these workforce and career tech training opportunities, has made a concerted effort to assist the rising labor shortage experienced in the area.
Workforce development programs at Northeast include Building Construction; Advanced Drafting & Manufacturing; Emergency Medical Services; Engineering Technician; Industrial Electronics; Mechatronics; Machine Tool Technology; Salon & Spa Management; and Welding. Most of these programs offer awards of an Associate in Applied Science degree, a certificate, or a short-term certificate. Each semester, these programs average an enrollment of around 260 students. NACC graduates an average of 264 students earning AAS degrees each year. Additionally, an average of 180 students earn certificates. An astounding average of 1,080 students earn short-term certificates each year at Northeast.
As NACC has worked to increase training opportunities in the area, the college has seen an increased number of female students completing these career tech programs and entering the workforce. Recently, 70% of Northeast graduates earning an AAS degree were female. Female students also made up the majority of completions in certificate programs, with 54% completing certificates and 53% earning short-term certificates.
“With the ongoing skilled worker shortage in the United States, more and more women are looking at jobs that have been nontraditional for them,” stated NACC President Dr. David Campbell. “We greatly encourage this and believe that these are increased and often new opportunities for women.”
Many female students have completed the welding program at NACC and are now using their skills in the local workforce. This follows a nationwide trend of more and more women entering male-dominated industries. According to chartercollege.edu news, only 7.5% of all employed welders in the United States are women.
Promise Young will graduate from NACC with a degree in welding this May. She became a student at Northeast through the Adult Education program after deciding she was ready to go back to school. She says she wanted to create a better future for herself and her family. When asked why she chose welding, Promise said, “I decided to do welding because of the good pay and the ability to work in a shop setting, learning new skills.” Promise is currently working as a welder at Lozier in Scottsboro. She says she would like to be a traveling welder in the future. Promise said she has really enjoyed this program, “Welding class has been my favorite, and all my instructors were amazing.”
Dean of Workforce Development Kerry Wright says these women are an inspiration to future career tech students. "These ladies have demonstrated incredible resolve in taking control of their future. In doing so, they are proving that the girls can do anything the boys can do. We are so proud of their effort and success," said Dean Wright.
Lacy Frasier is another Northeast student who is pursuing a career in welding. Like Promise, Lacy did not attend college immediately after high school. “I did not consider that I would even get the opportunity to go to school
again. When I was thirty years old I was given the opportunity to go to NACC. Although it was an uncomfortable decision for me to make, I took the chance,” said Lacy. As a hard worker, she knew learning a trade would be a great benefit to her future. Speaking of learning the trade, she said, “I knew nothing about welding when I began, but not long into learning this trade I learned that it is something that I will enjoy doing.” Lacy also said she has had the best instructors at Northeast and has learned so much from each of them. She is still exploring future places of employment and is looking forward to what opportunities will arise as she nears graduation.
Like Promise and Lacy, Shelby Parker is also completing welding classes at Northeast. Shelby is currently a Junior in high school and attends the DeKalb Virtual Academy. As a dual enrollment student, Shelby is earning high school and college credits simultaneously. When asked why she chose dual enrollment, Shelby said, “I wanted to graduate high school and immediately enter the workforce with the same skill set as a college graduate.” She is currently taking four welding classes and hopes to complete her AAS degree before graduating high school. A career in welding has always been a goal for Shelby. She says she likes to work with her hands and “create something from nothing.” She also said she is intrigued by the risk factors involved in welding and would like to travel and weld in the future. “I learned more about welding through my stepfather who used to work on the pipelines. I would like to complete my welding degree and maybe work for NASA or a pipeline someday.”
NACC Work Experience Coordinator and Assistant to the Dean of Workforce Development Melissa Ledbetter is especially proud of these students. “It is an honor to be able to walk beside these ladies in their journey and watch them, not only grow as students but also strengthen their self-esteem through their talents. As faculty and staff of NACC, we grow close to our students and celebrate their successes with them.”
Learn more about Workforce Development and career courses, degree programs, and certificates by visiting nacc.edu/opportunity. Contact the Workforce Development Division directly by calling 256-638-4418 ext. 2254 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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