Dr. Doug Flor has a passion for skilled labor and a desire for residents to earn good, livable wages.
The Central Alabama Community College Dean of Workforce Development officially started in his position October 2018, and previous to Flor’s arrival, there was only one dean at CACC who was over both the academics and career technical programs. With the addition of a new dean to cover Career Technical Education, Flor said, he can focus his time on growing the technical programs, analyzing the needs of the industries and increasing the number of students earning degrees or certificates.
“About 30 to 50 percent of students graduating from high school don’t go on to college. That is my in-road, and I hope to get at least half of that population to even think about a career in the technical workforce,” he said.
With his vision and a three- to five-year strategic plan, Flor hopes to collaborate with ministerial associations, chambers of commerce, industry leaders and local community and civic organizations to generate more opportunities for the underemployed or unemployed to receive educations resulting in quality careers.
“Typically our students at CACC are already making $16 to $20 an hour working locally in their areas of study while they’re still in school,” said Flor. “And 95 percent of them will find a job before they even graduate.”
As a result of scholarships, federal grants, dual enrollment and the Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act, there is no reason a person cannot attend community college regardless of economic and current employment status, he said.
If an individual earns $26,000 or less, there is an opportunity to earn Pell grant money from the federal government. Even if someone were to take out a loan to cover the costs, Flor said, the price per credit hour is significantly lower than an average four-year university.
“Most people that graduate from college with $100,000 in student loans only end up earning on average $30,000,” he said. “Here, you’re paying less up front and earning at least double the average livable wage for a single person. That’s at least two to three times the minimum wage.”
While this may be surprising to some, local jobs are abundant in the area and also within a commutable-drive said Flor.
“Employers around here are scrambling. There are plenty of local jobs available and commuting is also an option, especially when you’re driving for a high-paying job,” he said.
To help meet the needs of local industries, CACC is working on expanding its offerings. CACC has designed a new marine technology program. The curriculum is finished, and it’s in the process of being sent to the state for review. If it’s approved, the program could launch by fall of 2020.
“There is a strong need for these positions. Industry analysis says we need 54 marine techs within the next year, and they have a starting salary of close to $40,000,” said Flor.
The welding program may also get an upgrade with the latest technology of virtual welding, if the school’s grant gets funded. The idea is that it builds muscle memory before working on real materials. The price of steel has tripled, so it will cut down on costs, said Flor.
“We teach them to understand the skill; and then, move on to actual welding. It’s a great way to train,” he said.
In the robotics field, two new robots are being purchased to complement the three that are already available. There are at least 40 robotics positions that currently need to be filled, said Flor.
More growth and upgrades could be coming in the near future, since the government approved the Perkins V Act last year, which will provide new opportunities to improve Career Technical Education nationwide and enable more flexibility for states to meet the needs of their students, employers and teachers.
“This could be a total game changer with an emphasis on putting more money toward CTE from the government,” said Flor.
Beginning last month, each region in Alabama hosted meetings for educators to attend that would assess the needs of their areas. The public will then be invited to an open meeting in the coming weeks. Each region will submit a proposal by Jan. 31, 2020, and the state will submit the plan to the federal government.
“This is a major initiative in Gov. Ivey’s office to re-think CTE,” said Flor.
CACC has interests in regions 2, 5 and 6, and local Alexander City residents should attend the region 5 public meeting on Aug. 15 at Trenholm State Community College from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. A second meeting will take place Oct. 10 at the same time and location.
Additional programs under Flor’s workforce development program include adult education, noncredit programs and the truck-driving program.