On a sunny, windy day in Marshall County, Snead State Community College broke ground on what will be a much-needed training facility as well as a lasting legacy for future students.
Joined by students, employees, state and federal officials, the College hosted a Groundbreaking Ceremony on Thursday, Jan. 19, for the new Workforce Skills Training Center, centrally located within Marshall County in Guntersville.
“Very soon, this 50,000-square-foot facility will begin training Alabamians to excel in high-demand jobs such as Welding, HVAC, Machine Tool Technology, and Advanced Manufacturing, all of which are career pathways that have been identified as critically needed in Marshall County and throughout the State of Alabama,” said Governor Kay Ivey, who described the plans leading to the development of the training facility as a team effort among elected officials and Snead State.
“Our economy and workforce needs are every evolving with every day that passes by. It is imperative that we do our part to ensure (business and industry) has an adept, hard-working talent pool to hire from. Projects like this one that we are celebrating today is part of the reason why we have been so successful in bringing in 73,000 new jobs and more than $40 billion in investments.”
Snead State President Dr. Joe Whitmore said, “Our purpose here today is to recognize and celebrate the purpose of the Workforce Skills Training Center. When you look around here, you can see just how important and how critical our groundbreaking today is to our community and our state. This has been something we’ve been planning for about three years. It will provide very much needed training and education and will provide prosperity to our community.
“We want to change lives. If we can change one life, then we change a family. If we change a family’s life, we change a neighborhood. If we change a neighborhood, we can change a community. If we can change a community, we can change the state. If we change the state, we can change the nation. It starts here, and it starts today.”
To emphasize the importance of the center, Snead State sophomore Jake Knighten of Boaz shared how his life was affected by the training and education he received through Snead State. Jake will graduate from Snead State with his degree in Industrial Systems Technology in May.
“When I was in high school, I wasn’t interested in college. I just wanted to work and move my way up. I talked with (Snead State Project Director of Workforce Enhancement) Greg Randall and decided to try some classes. After trying those classes, I fell in love with those classes. I received a full scholarship to Snead State in the Industrial Systems program. I was able to start my college career in the fall of 2021.
“I was introduced to the apprenticeship program, and I was interested because I could go to college, work and make money at the same time. I had the opportunity to go to work at Atrion Medical Products in Arab. Atrion has worked with me, so I could work a 40-hour week and go to school full time. Because this was a paid apprenticeship, I was able to save up enough money to buy my own home for me and my fiancé after we’re married. This new building will show students what programs we have at Snead State and what opportunities they have,” he said.
Jake’s experience is an example of what Alabama Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield referred to as the legacy that will come with the new facility.
“Dreams do come true. If you work hard and treat people right, it will happen. This wasn’t just a dream of mine or President Whitmore’s, it is a dream of our entire community. For the thousands of students who come through this center who obtain the skills they need to be successful, those are the dreams that are going to come true. This is a legacy that all of us will leave for generations to come,” Senator Scofield said.
Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth shared with the crowd on Thursday why the completion of the training center matters. “When you look at the fact that 65-70 percent of the students in this state end up not getting a two- or four-year degree, you better believe getting students trained for a 21st Century job matters. This is going to continue to put Marshall County on the map.”
“We are changing this area because we’re providing the skills training that is needed,” said Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker. “This is the first of several workforce skills training centers that we have on the board for planning. I need to be able to tell industry that we have the employees who are trained and know what to do. That’s a key, important element in changing this state. We’re about the process of moving forward, and we’re excited that because of the work of (President Whitmore) and his staff, we are able to start here.
“We are training people to be successful in their careers and to make salaries and be rewarded at a level where they can support their families and take pride in what they’re doing. If you’re committed to doing the work and if you’re sincere in what you’re doing, good things can happen” Chancellor Baker added.
Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees member Dus Rogers agreed with Chancellor Baker regarding the impact of the new facility. “This is an exciting day. This facility is going to have a huge impact on workforce development and will positively impact economic development in Marshall County and the entire region. Snead State Community College is helping transform our region.”
In addition to preparing the state’s workforce, U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt also said the groundbreaking took a step in the right direction in continuing to reduce unemployment.
“It’s exciting to be at this groundbreaking and really celebrate workforce development and how we can move forward in trying to make sure we have the lowest unemployment rate of any state in the United States. We’ve historically had a very low unemployment rate, but in order to maintain that success, we have to make sure we have a workforce that is ready to do the job. That’s where this (facility) comes in.
“When this (project) was underway, Dr. Whitmore reached out to see if there was anything we could do at a federal level. When we heard what was going on and what this project was all about, we said, ‘let’s see what we can do to help.’ We were able to get $1 million for this program to make sure the facility is furnished and has the state-of-the-art equipment to move forward.”
In addition to the federal and state dollars applied to the completion of the Workforce Skills Training Center, the Marshall County Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Cindy Wigley donated the land for the facility.
“This will benefit high school and adult students all across northeast Alabama. The Marshall County Board of Education and I are delighted to be a part of this endeavor,” said Dr. Wigley.
Construction on the new $30 million facility, located on U.S. Highway 431 near Marshall Technical School, is set to begin within a couple of weeks.