Strengthening the Local Community Through Workforce Development Preparedness

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

Perry WardI am fortunate and blessed to serve as the president of Lawson State Community College. The College plays an important role in the diversification of the workforce in Birmingham and surrounding counties in Alabama. As president of the college, I firmly believe that the area must have an educated, skilled and highly trained population to meet the demands of the local economy and the workforce.  The college offers a variety of certificate and degree programs designed to meet the needs of the community, the region and the state. These include college transfer, career technical course offerings and training opportunities. 

It is important that the college be represented in the varied conversations held throughout the region as far as workforce development and preparedness are concerned. My staff and I work diligently to ensure representation and make sure that as a community stakeholder, the college brings to the table people, processes and training opportunities equipped to have an impact on the local workforce.

Preparation for the workforce starts from the moment a student begins the matriculation process at the college. Students are immediately immersed into the Freshman Academy, also known as the Freshman Encounter: e3 4 life  a program designed to equip, engage and empower (e3) freshmen with skills and knowledge that will contribute to their success at Lawson State and to provide effective engagement strategies to facilitate that success.  Students begin early to experience and appreciate the demands of academe and the preparation necessary for success in all areas of life. Faculty who teach in the Academy work closely with the Student Persistence through Assistance and Collaborative Efforts (SPACE) Center to prepare students to be more successful in their chosen areas of study. Academy Faculty and the staff of the SPACE Center utilize technology as the primary tool for the acquisition of knowledge and skills. The services provided by these two units, as well as the coordination, and cooperation among other units such as the Student Support Services Program, writing and mathematics laboratories, and an early warning system administered through student services all work together effectively with first generation students throughout their academic endeavors at the college. As a community college, Lawson State is a gateway to the personal success of students and ultimately to the workforce of the community. 

One component of this gateway to success at Lawson State Community College is the Alabama Center for Automotive Excellence. The Center prepares students for successful employment or advancement in the transportation service industry. The Center has six different programs to meet the needs of students: Auto Body Repair, Auto Mechanics, Medium/Heavy Truck, and three auto mechanics programs sponsored by manufacturers - Ford ASSET, GM ASEP and Toyota T-TEN.  These areas are vital to the extensive automobile industry in Alabama. Students are given a thorough grounding in theory in their chosen area as well as practical laboratory and shop experiences. Our students are then given the opportunity to participate in cooperative education work experience with area dealerships and independent repair facilities. Not only do they receive a world class education, they can work and earn money at the same time.  Additionally, the Center trains workers in the area of alternative fuels focusing on Compressed Natural Gas, the maintenance and inspection of alternative powered vehicles, such as liquefied ad compressed natural gas hybrid and electric vehicles.

Another component of this gateway is the high-tech career and technical programs offered at the institution. Faculty and staff train workers in health care program areas such as RN, PN, EMT, and Dental Assisting, and career technical areas such as Robotics, Industrial Welding, and Industrial Manufacturing. I am proud of the college’s workforce development training programs and know that all of the efforts of college faculty and staff are preparing a better skilled workforce in the Birmingham, Alabama and surrounding areas for the 21st century.  As a member of the network of America’s community colleges, Lawson State Community College helps to make America work.

Dr. Perry Ward is President of Lawson State Community College.

Your Federal Tax Receipt