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High-tech workforce training coming to Jeff State

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

New workforce development opportunities are coming to Jefferson State Community College through the JumpStartAL initiative.

The program is a partnership between public and private entities that is incorporating virtual reality equipment into workforce development training.

“We are very excited,” Tamara Payne, director of career and learning services for Jefferson State, said.

The plan is for the program to begin on Aug. 1 at the Jefferson campus.

“The students that we have who are ready to start in August are actually all very excited about the prospect of virtual reality because it is cutting edge technology,” Payne said.

The classes are a part of the colleges Ready To Work program.

Payne said students taking Ready To Work classes at other campuses, including the Chilton-Clanton campus, would have the option to come to the Jefferson campus just for the JumpStart AL supported class. The college hopes to expand JumpStartAL opportunities to more campuses in the future.

The virtual reality headsets provided through the program will be used for blueprint reading and precision measurement classes. The headsets are a part of the TRANSFRVR job simulator.

These classes would prepare individuals for industrial and automotive settings.

“Alabama is focused on the future,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a press release. “JumpStartAL will help ensure that we are positioned to attract the jobs of tomorrow by educating and training Alabamians to take advantage of the opportunities those jobs will provide.”

Through the initiative, the cost of the equipment has been covered so that the community colleges have not had to purchase the virtual reality headsets.

“Now, more than ever, we must be engaged in new and inventive ways to train the next generation of skilled workers,” said Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker. “Our colleges are committed to meeting students where they are and helping them achieve a better future. Hands-on virtual reality training is a means of achieving that goal.”

According to a press release announcing the launch of the program, partners in JumpStartAL include Alabama Community College System, Alabama Industrial Development Training’s Ready To Work division, Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education, Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, Business Education Alliance, TRANSFRVR, Shelby County economic development organization 58 INC, Central Six Alabama Works and the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Alabama Power, Altec and Kamtek are among the private sector leaders of JumpStartAL,” the press release states. “The statewide business community is supporting the initiative both through job placement strategies and financial efforts.”

JumpStartAL supported classes will also be offered at the following community colleges: Coastal Alabama, Enterprise State, Lawson State and Shelton State. There are plans to expand the locations serviced in the future.

“The initiative will highlight career paths needed for Alabama to meet its goal to increase its workforce by 500,000 highly skilled workers by 2025,” according to the press release.

Ready To Work classes are offered in a number of fields. Payne said the program can develop classes specific to industry needs. Certification opportunities are also available.

Classes have also been formatted to be available online, except for those requiring hands-on components. Ready To Work programs are offered as six week classes.

“There are incentives for students to complete Ready To Work,” Payne said. “For example, in addition to being able to utilize virtual reality headsets from JumpStartAL, individuals who have completed ready to work also receive $175 stipend for completing the program. They are also eligible for a free credit class at Jefferson State Community College, and they are eligible for other scholarship programs in our non-credit department.”

The goal is to establish “a career pathway for students,” Payne said.

Payne said this will be the first time that the college has used virtual reality technology as a part of an adult education or Ready To Work class.

More information about the Ready to Work program at Jefferson State is available at jeffersonstate.edu/rtw/ or by contacting Adrienne Rowland at arowland@jeffersonstate.edu or calling 205-856-7767.