December 16th, 2010

This past Friday we took a trip to check out one of our Higher Education Partners, Wallace State University-Hanceville. We’ve continually heard of their academic, health and technical programs and were eager for a closer look.

Dr. Tomesa Smith, Vice President of Student Affairs, welcomed us and gave us a brief history of Wallace State. Afterward, Ms. Jennifer Hill, Director of Enrollment Management, gave us a campus tour while catching us up on Wallace State’s expansion of health professions and broadening of technical programs including culinary studies, dental hygiene and cosmetology.

The tour ended with a walk-through of the welding department. The program boasts a 100 percent employment rate for its graduates. Jim Thompson, the Welding Department Head, showed us around the facilities, pointing out various welding machinery, and he even demonstrated a water-powered materials cutter to make us some souvenirs!

Mr. Thompson informed us about the vast employment opportunities for a welder and about a national shortage of people seeking work in the welding professions. He also referenced a recent Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute (ACRI) commercial that aired during the Iron Bowl. The commercial, featuring Mike Rowe, stressed the importance of workforce development under the label of “Go Build Alabama.”

The Huntsville Times recently quoted the commercial and some ACRI statistics- “A third of Alabama’s skilled tradesmen are over 50, and they’re retiring fast,” Rowe said in the new PSA. “Guess who’s replacing them? No one.” According to the ACRI, for every four people retiring from the construction trades nationwide, only one is stepping up to take their place.

The highlight of the day was listening to Mr. Thompson describe acting out his life’s calling while helping others find theirs. He kept coming back to a central point he has experienced throughout his teaching career, “We take that person that had no skills…when they strike that first arc, it’s like a light switch came on,’This is what I’m supposed to be doing!’” Students find an interest they never knew they had. This spark serves as the motivation for these students to excel and perform on a higher level. Mr. Thompson recalled the passion and excitement some students had to learn as much about their trade as possible. He mentioned some of his past star students, such as Joey Foster, who won technical contests on a national level.

Thanks, Dr. Smith, Ms. Hill and Mr. Thompson for welcoming us to your campus!

Posted by T.C. McLemore