Two-year college chancellor touts workforce opportunities

Alabama’s two-year college system is a willing partner with business and industry for training and educating current and next-generation employees, Alabama Community College System Chancellor Dr. Mark Heinrich told the Business Council of Alabama’s board of directors.

Heinrich, speaking Tuesday at the BCA board meeting, said “business and education are a natural fit.”

“Working with the BCA is extraordinarily beneficial and gratifying to me,” Heinrich said.

Heinrich said workforce development is growing in importance for the two-year system partly because by 2018 there could be a shortage of 5 million middle-skill employees nationally and 250,000 in Alabama. “There’s an entire tsunami about to wash over us and I’m not sure if we’re ready for that,” he said.

Heinrich said the ACCS works with 1,200 businesses and industries. “We’re excited about that and we’re building more every day,” he said.

Heinrich cited the successful Mercedes-Benz Industrial Mechatronics program at Shelton State Community College that helps train qualified students to work at the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International automotive assembly plants in Vance. Heinrich was the president of Shelton State when the State Board of Education named him chancellor of the 26-school system on Sept. 21, 2012.

Mechatronics combines classroom and hands-on study and training in mechanical, electrical, computer, and control engineering. The Mechatronics program is a partnership between Shelton State and the University of Alabama. “We’ll be glad to work anyone on this kind of program,” Heinrich said.

Heinrich said the ACCS, the Alabama Industrial Development Training Institute, and the Alabama Technology Network coordinate programs to assist business and industry. “We want to partner with any industry in Alabama to train and we will work with you to develop what’s best for you and your employees,” he said.

The two-year college system includes the Office of Workforce Development whose mission is to respond to current and future needs of businesses and businesses, he said.

Heinrich said the two-year college system’s mission is threefold – academic preparation, workforce development, and adult education.

– Dana Beyerle