Wallace State Mechatronics instructor Keith Tolbert and Dean of Applied Technologies Jimmy Hodges
HANCEVILLE - At any given time, more than 6,000 children are in Alabama's foster care system. Every year, approximately 200 of them reach their 18th birthdays and "age out." Many of these, lacking skills and resources to make lives for themselves, will end up on welfare or in prison. Not only is their plight tragic in a personal sense, it is wasteful in an economic sense: the state spends an average of $70 million per year on former foster kids in the welfare and corrections systems.
Huntsville-based Kids to Love (KTL) says "We believe the better choice is to invest in them now."
KTL is an organization that promotes adoption, but supports foster kids through multifaceted programs like Camp Hope (a place for separated siblings to reunite for short-term gatherings), Christmas for the Kids (a donated gift program) and the Davidson Farm home for girls, among many others.
Lee Marshall, a former news anchor for WHNT in Huntsville, founded KTL and now serves as its full-time CEO. She herself was an adopted former foster child, and has given her life to this faith-based ministry.
Marshall recently met with Wallace State Community College (WSCC) President Dr. Vicki Karolewics and Dean of Applied Technology Jimmy Hodges to talk about her vocational training program known as KTech. The program, based at a facility in Madison County, teaches older foster kids about mechatronics, the field of engineering and industrial maintenance that keeps modern industries up and running. With demand high and growing every day (the average skilled technician in the U.S. is 59 years old), Marshall saw the field as a wide-open opportunity for committed students to prepare themselves for a stable career with good income. Students in her program can graduate as a Siemens Certified Mechatronics Systems Assistant.
That's where WSCC comes in. Marshall is working with Hodges and Karolewics to create a gateway program that would allow students who complete KTech to apply their knowledge and certification toward an associate degree in mechatronics.
Hodges said, "They can offer a level one certification to high school students. The partnership that we're working on is that when a student comes through her program and achieves a Siemens Level One certification, they'll be able to transfer that; and that equals out to 12 to 15 credit hours. We're going to create an articulation agreement, so those students who finish with her can come straight on into Wallace, and go into my mechatronics program which offers an associate degree. They can go straight to work (with their first certification from KTech), or they can continue on and get an associate degree, and become even more employable."
Hodges spoke briefly about Marshall's decision to approach WSCC. "She says that she serves quite a few orphans from Cullman County, so that's why she was excited that these students can get a level one certification with her, then return home to continue their education at WSCC. She's excited, and Dr. Karolewics is just very excited about it."
If all goes well with the necessary partnership agreements, the joint KTech/WSCC program could be underway by fall 2017.
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