Education CATA shows off programs at bustling Open House | CullmanSense


CATA shows off programs at bustling Open House

Students from CATA's heating and air conditioning program were on hand to speak to visitors at Thursday night's Open House. / Nick Griffin

CULLMAN - The Cullman Area Technology Academy (CATA, formerly the Cullman Area Career Center) on Thursday night held its second annual Open House, with prospective students, their families and others coming out to see what CATA has to offer. Classrooms were filled with displays and projects, along with teachers and students to help walk visitors through the different programs offered at the academy.

CATA specializes in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and offers 15 career/technical programs, including:

  • Auto Collision Repair
  • Auto Service Technology
  • Building Construction
  • Cosmetology
  • Culinary Arts
  • Drafting Technology
  • Electrical Technology
  • Engineering Technology
  • Health Science
  • Heating/Air Conditioning
  • Horticulture
  • Mechatronics Technology
  • Precision Machine
  • Welding

Principal Billy Troutman was excited to see the turnout and to be able to offer education for a wide variety of careers.

“I try to do it every year and it’s great for recruitment, but the biggest thing is it gives those students a chance to see what their opportunities really are,” Troutman said. “Up here we have 15 different programs and everywhere from a student who is college-bound who’s thinking about being a nurse or a doctor or for the student who’s thinking about being an engineer or wants to do some drafting, so there’s that, but then there’s so many practical craft trades, skill-based knowledge shops. Anywhere from the machine shop, to the auto mechanics to welding so it’s just a great variety. There’s no reason in this day and time in my opinion for someone to be unemployed.”

Troutman said he’s seen a rise in demand for the types of careers that CATA focuses on, and knows his students can take advantage of that.

“We’re in a timeframe now where the market is flooded with college graduates, but if you can do something, you’re in high demand. If you’re a licensed plumber, a licensed electrician, a licensed carpenter, mechanic or nurse, you have a skill set that the normal public does not have and you’re in demand,” he said. “So, to me these are exciting times for career tech and that’s what I tell the students, too. We have every student that’s a ninth-grader in Cullman County (Schools) has come through this week, we have students from Cullman High School as well so next week they’re going to come, and they’ll bring their ninth-grade class on Wednesday and they’ll get to do the same thing as well.”

Troutman has been involved with career tech for as long as he can remember, having taught agriculture at Arab High School and Hanceville High School before joining the CATA staff in 2008. He has served as director for the past three years and the academy has always done the ninth-grade tours, but the Open House started just last year, and Troutman has seen it help in in CATA’s recruiting efforts. On the class tour during the week a student may only get to spend five minutes learning about a technical career, but the Open House allows them to bring their parents and spend more time with instructors.

“As far as enrollment goes, for the last two or three years we’ve been almost at maximum capacity and what I mean by that is the heavy shops, shops like automotive, welding, machine shop where there is heavy equipment, the state doesn’t mandate a maximum size, but they strongly recommend a safe working size around 15 students per class,” Troutman said. “So, for the last two years heavy shops have been full, and we’ve actually had to filter people away or steer them to other directions and so that’s been a wonderful problem to have. Between my career tech programs and my co-op program I’m at 700 students up here. That’s wonderful compared to when I first started up here; we were running closer to 400 kids, maybe 250-300 kids, so we’ve seen an awesome increase.”

Troutman said parents being part of the tour during Open House is definitely a positive for the potential students and the academy. He believes it’s a great opportunity for an older generation to see how industries and technology are evolving.

“Career tech education has changed, just like everything else has changed. Technology has touched us just like it has every facet of life. Growing up in school, especially my generation, the kids’ parents’ generation, their grandparents’ generation, this wasn’t necessarily seen as high-demand, high-wage. This was something where you were told you need to go to college and you don’t really need to go to the trade school, that’s what they called it then, but I’m telling you, we’ve done everything we can to change that image and also society is changing that image,” he said.

“Look at Cullman’s manufacturing growth over the last 10 years with Rehau and Topre and Royal Technologies. We’re changing as a community and so all of a sudden career tech is in demand. Now it’s seen as something that is worthwhile, it’s kind of encouraged, and I only want that to grow more and more. I want to show more and more validity and more and more potential because obviously I believe in it.”

Learn more about CATA at

See a full photo gallery from Thursday night's Open House here.

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