BOE and business partnering to help prepare work force for economic development of county

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, November 6, 2013

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
In an effort to promote the economic development of Lowndes County by helping to prepare the local work force, Pioneer Electric and Alabama Power, as part of the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission, are partnering with the Lowndes County Board of Education to offer new programs to students at the middle school and high school level.

“I feel that it is good that we can partner with outside agencies to help our students succeed in the world of work,” said Lowndes County School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd. “Soft skills (work ethics) are really important for our students. And the exposure of people working in the different industries allow them to be able learn valuable information that will hopefully help them to do well when they land their first job.”

He was speaking of programs sponsored by Pioneer Electric, Alabama Power and businesses such as Priester’s Pecans.

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One new offering as a result of this partnership is the Career Preparedness Class that will be taught in the ninth grade at both Calhoun and Central High and sponsored by Pioneer Electric.

Lorenza Smith, Career Tech Administrator for Lowndes County Schools, said of the class to teach work ethics, “I’m very excited about it because it allows students to work outside the normal perimeters of what we’ve been having in the past and have a new resource to help us prepare for the future.”

There will also be the Liberty Learning Program for the fifth grade students at Fort Deposit Elementary sponsored by Alabama Power.

Boyd said that class would teach “the importance of being courteous.” He also said it will teach students about money management and to honor great Americans and heroes.

Cleveland Poole, vice president of economic development and legal affairs for Pioneer Electric Cooperative Inc. said, “We realize there are three pieces to economic development. One is the marking of your community (the county) for the industry that looking for a place to land. The second is talking to existing industries to let them know that we are glad that they’re here and we want to assist them any possible way we can to make them successful”. He said that should help make them want to stay, expand and be a valuable tool to help promote the county as “a great place to be.”

But Poole said, “The third leg of the stool is work force development.” He said a new company wants to make sure there are enough people to fill the jobs who are a capable and trained workforce.

Poole said, “For the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission, I’ve been tasked with the workforce development side of what we are doing.”

Thomas Ellis, co-owners of Priester’s Pecans, is chairman of the commission.

Poole said when commission members made existing industry visits, “What the large employers in Lowndes County told us is that while career tech is great, what we really want to see is work ethic.”

Poole called it soft skills, preparing a resume, being punctual and understanding that employees must work a full workday.

He said he sat down with Dr. Boyd, Smith and job coach Reginald Crawford and Otis Grayson the state personnel member shared by Butler and Lowndes County School Boards and Rod Cater, business office manager for Alabama Power in Greenville, Georgiana and Fort Deposit.

He said there is a problem not limited to Lowndes County of employees who don’t have a good work ethic.

Poole said he found a company in Colorado that created a curriculum in work ethics and good work habits and that Pioneer Electric is sponsoring the purchase of the books and teachers’ guides for the Career Preparedness Class in both Lowndes and Butler County.

Ellis said, “One of the real positives in Lowndes County is this economic development effort and we’re very fortunate in Lowndes County to have all the utilities on board supporting economic development.”

Ellis is also doing his part in providing a job for a young high school student at the Priester’s Shelling Plant.

“We had a young lady come to apply with us that Reginald (Crawford) sent that all of my people are telling me a very impressive young lady.”

He said he is going to try to find a place to fit her in.