Spotlight on Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia & Monroe: Higher Education

Community and technical colleges offer a number of opportunities for students to earn certificates or associate degrees.

A Coastal Alabama Community College culinary student can take courses aimed at a bachelor’s of culinary science degree at Auburn University.

Coastal Alabama Community College

Coastal Alabama Community College’s service area covers nine counties in southwest Alabama and more than 9,000 square miles from the Mississippi line to the Florida line. It offers more than 120 programs of study across the several campuses and instructional sites. These programs range from short-term certificates to comprehensive associate degrees for students wishing to transfer to four-year universities or to enter the workforce upon completion.

Each campus offers unique opportunities for students to get involved with the community, as well as different clubs, scholars’ bowls, industry scholarships and more.

In these five counties, Coastal’s reach is significant to not only college students but also to adult learners and those seeking to improve skills. A number of these programs have been expanded and updated.

In Choctaw County, expansions include the industrial maintenance lab area on the Gilbertown campus and adding more students in dual enrollment. Also, the college conducts a unique adult education program called “Skills on Wheels” in Butler, aiming to help residents who need upgraded credentials to “up-skill.”

The Gilbertown campus has a library that is open to students and the public, and the Upward Bound and TRIO programs to serve low-income and first-generation college students.

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In Clarke County, the college started a new pipefitting program on the Thomasville campus and added a pipefitting and pipe welding building. Dual enrollment was expanded, and an industrial maintenance apprenticeship was started with
AM/NS Calvert.

In Conecuh County, Coastal started an industrial maintenance career path program in partnership with Weyerhaeuser.

In Escambia County, where the county recently became an Alabama “Work Ready Community,” the school remodeled and started a new machine tool program on the Atmore campus and created a machine tool apprenticeship and employee education partnership with Alto Products, which makes transmission parts.

The Atmore campus also expanded its nursing program to add an LPN program, expanded the HVAC degree to a full-time program, is building a new administration building, started a First Information Technology Apprenticeship program with Provalus in Brewton, provides training and career paths for Grede in Brewton, and has expanded adult education and dual enrollment.

The Brewton campus also has the Thomas E. McMillan Museum, which chronicles life in Escambia County and hosts the Escambia County Historical Society each month. The campus also hosts two unique events — The Raku Firing, a pottery technique, and Empty Bowls, a fundraiser.

In Monroe County, Coastal started a new program with the Monroe County schools Career Tech Center in building maintenance, is building a new welding shop on the Monroeville main campus, expanded dual enrollment programs, is starting a new hiring program with Georgia-Pacific Alabama River Cellulose and conducted a noncredit welding upskill project with Harrigan Lumber.

The Monroeville campus also hosts several events, including the Monroe County Teacher Institute, high school graduations, spelling bee, high school events, college fairs and poll workers training. The college also hosts the Monroeville Literary Festival, the annual Black History program and more. Coastal also is working with high school students to implement the Young Entrepreneur Program.

Reid State offers academic and technical programs.

Reid State Technical College

Reid State Technical College is a degree-granting, two-year institution that provides academic and technical education to students from diverse backgrounds and abilities. The college promotes economic growth by preparing a qualified workforce for business and industry.

Reid State offers traditional classes in Evergreen, traditional nursing classes in Greenville and a commercial truck driving class in Monroeville. The school employs 63 full and part-time employees and 87% of 2020-2021 graduates are employed in Alabama.

RSTC recently began offering two new programs. Pharmacy tech is a two-semester program that prepares students to enter the pharmacy field and to pursue certification including the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board’s exam. And, computer information science will provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to be entry-level computer operators, computer programmers and systems analysts. Graduates earn an Associate of Applied Technology in Computer Information Science.

Dr. Coretta Boykin was appointed president of Reid State in April 2021. She has been at the college for the past 18 years.

To keep pace with demand and create a pipeline of qualified employees, the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship worked with industry partners Billy Barnes Enterprises and Reid State Technical College to establish the first competency-based Commercial Driver Registered Apprenticeship program in the state.

In addition, Reid State established registered apprenticeships with Tenax Corp., Coastal Forest Products and Pepsi Cola Bottling of Atmore.

Reid State and Lurleen B. Wallace Community College held a signing day for students in RSTC’s industrial electricity and electronics program and LBW’s diesel and heavy equipment mechanics program. Students graduating earned an opportunity to work in the oil and gas industry and accepted $6,000 sign-on bonuses with Liberty Oilfield Services.

Reid State apprenticeship students also won first place in the summer technician video competition sponsored by Liberty Oilfield Services.

Reid State celebrated the opening of the new Monroeville Commercial Truck Driving Site in Monroe County in August 2021. A partnership between Reid State and Monroe County High School will allow high school seniors to obtain a Commercial Driver Learners Permit and eventually a Commercial Driver’s License.

Reid State hosted its first of a series of COVID-19 vaccine clinics in September 2021. The clinics are being operated by the Evergreen Medical Center and Alabama Department of Public Health in collaboration with Reid State’s nursing program.

This article appeared in the March 2022 issue of Business Alabama.

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