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2014 March 3 - 12:00 am

Ala. House GOP Pushes Worker Training Program

Dual Enrollment, Workforce Development

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama House Republicans said they want to expand a program that lets high school students simultaneously enroll in job training classes at two-year colleges.

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard said the program will boost the number of skilled workers in the state and keep Alabama competitive in industry recruitment.

“That will provide them with the skills to compete for high-paying, long-lasting 21st century jobs,” Hubbard said during a news conference.

The state’s existing dual enrollment program already allows high school students to enroll in two-year college classes, such as welding and aviation mechanics. The legislation backed by House Republicans seeks to create $10 million in scholarships to expand the program to another 9,542 students. The scholarships would be funded by donations from businesses that would get a 50 percent tax credit.

The Legislative Fiscal Office estimated the program would reduce tax collections that support public education by $5 million annually.

The donating businesses would get a large say in how their money is spent. They could steer up to 80 percent of their donation to help train students in a particular field.

Bill sponsor Rep. Mac Buttram said there are welding and other jobs in the state that can’t be filled because of a shortage of skilled workers.

“The jobs we are seeking to fill are good paying jobs, an average of $50,000 a year,” Buttram said.

Decatur High School senior Wesley Persons is currently in the program taking aviation classes at Calhoun Community College.

Persons, 18, said the studies are helping him get a head start on his plans to become an aircraft mechanic. The class also helped him solidify his career choice.

“The first time I sat in a cockpit of a plane, I fell in love,” Persons said.

A spokeswoman for the Alabama Education Association said dual enrollment was a great program, but they opposed moving $5 million away from K-12 schools to pay for it.

Spokeswoman Amy Marlowe said after years of cuts, K-12 classrooms have many needs, particularly in technology and libraries.

Alabama Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice said he had only given the bill a cursory review, but said it “looks like a great opportunity for K-12 students who might not be able to afford to participate in dual enrollment to do so.”

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Also from KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

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