MOBILE, Ala., Aug. 10, 2021 – With the help of industries throughout the region, Bishop State Community College has initiated a win-win-win strategy.

In six of the school’s keystone programs, industry partnerships have been established to aid training, facilitate work-based learning and provide field resources. Such entities as Ingalls Shipbuilding, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and Alabama Power provide Bishop State with inside knowledge and support. Many industry partners even supply equipment for training and empower their employees to serve as adjunct professors. Bishop State, in turn, produces highly qualified students, ready for work among these partners. The school ensures its students are prepared even in details beyond curriculum: verifying that no lineworker is height averse and no carpenter lacks essential math skills.

Of course, the third victor in this triple win arrangement is each Bishop State student. As recipients of these partnership programs, students are commonly awarded industry scholarships, greater levels of hands-on training and preparation for jobs with salaries nearly double that of Alabama’s median income.

Industry and academia have run parallel to one another for ages. Often, corporations request colleges produce rigorously trained workers—without enabling such training themselves. Colleges reactively adjust their offerings to help students continue into successful careers, generally starting from scratch with new programs. This hands-off arrangement is finally being replaced with a more effective partnership model where industry and academia intersect. In the sharing of resources, corporations and colleges collaborate to produce students who are thoroughly trained and ready for employment. This model is an exact fit for Bishop State’s mission to provide “open access to an affordable, quality education, which promotes student success, academic transfer, workforce training, adult education and community partnerships.”

According to David Felton, Bishop State’s dean of workforce development, “Industry involvement brings trust to our programs. It speaks loudly to our students when an industry believes in our work enough to partner with us.”

Six unique programs at Bishop State facilitate partnerships with local industries. Ingalls Shipbuilding helps outfit and train students in the Marine Electrical, Pipefitting and Shipfitter Apprenticeships. The Southwestern Alabama Partnership for Training and Employment (SWAPTE) fully funds students in Bishop State’s Fix It Program. This program focuses on adults aged 17 to 24 who did not enter the workforce after high school graduation and need training in soft skills to enable a career start. In response to the strong union presence in southwestern Alabama, the North American Building Trades Union (NABTU) partners with Bishop State’s Apprenticeship Readiness Program, providing math training and an understanding of the continental union environment for steelworkers, ironworkers, electricians and carpenters. ALDOT partners with Bishop State’s Heavy Highway Construction program to furnish work-based learning. Students spend 40 hours per week between attending free courses and working with a local highway construction company, while being paid for their time on the job. For Bishop State’s Lineworker program, Alabama Power provides instructors, equipment and resources to best train students and reduce their overall costs. Most recently, a grant from the city of Mobile is enabling partnership with Bishop State’s new Project Management for Contractors program. This initiative will bolster the efforts of minority and small business contractors who need additional training resources.

Perhaps the strongest example of these partnerships is shown through Alabama Power’s relationship to the Lineworker program at Bishop State. For both years in this partnership, students have completed the program with a 100 percent career placement rate. This is in large part due to Alabama Power’s capacity to engage and be involved in the day-to-day training of students.

“Helping prepare our state’s workforce is one of the ways we’re working to elevate Alabama,” said Jeff Peoples, Alabama Power executive vice president of Customer and Employee Services. “Through our partnership with Bishop State, students gain the skills needed for meaningful careers as lineworkers. We have been impressed with the caliber and quality of work of those who have completed the program and continued their careers at Alabama Power."

Students, industries and Bishop State have shown full positivity regarding the six established industry partnerships. The school plans to continue developing relationships with key industries for the success of all involved and looks to contribute to marginalized and disadvantaged audiences as it strengthens its workforce development network.

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