By Ashley Graves
The Cullman Times
Rep. Jay Love has had a busy off season away from the Alabama Legislature.
As part of a commitment made during a previous session, Love, chairman of the Ways and Means Education Committee, has traveled hundreds of miles and put in numerous hours visiting community colleges across the state to get a better understanding of their needs. Earlier this week, Love made his 20th and final stop at Wallace State before the session begins Feb. 5 in Montgomery. While there, he met with Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Hawsey and various staff members of the college, Sen. Paul Bussman, Rep. Mac Buttram, and Rep Ed Henry.
“I’ve been in the system 20 years, and this is the first time that someone in your position, besides the local delegation, has taken the opportunity to do what you’re doing, and I want to say thank you for that,” Hawsey said.
As part of a presentation, Hawsey and staff members spoke on a variety of topics, including the college’s demographics, finances, courses of study, and plans for the future. However, the main focus centered around the impact of declining state appropriations over the last few years, and the importance of the vocational training programs.
“In a rural area like we are in, we’ve got to train individuals without having the companies train them,” Bussman said. “The only way we’re able to bring the REHAU’s, Topre’s, and Yutaka suppliers into Cullman is to have employees coming out of Wallace ready to stand on the machine ready to go. Right now, if we can’t fund the community colleges like we need to fund them, the equipment gets outdated. If you don’t have the computer equipment they’re using out in the market, you’re basically wasting your time, so I’d like to see as much funding as possible for these type programs, especially for the rural areas.”
Love also toured the diesel, welding, and machine tool technical buildings while on campus, talking with instructors and students about the demand for jobs in the technical fields. He offered optimistic words to Hawsey following the tour.
“It’s been difficult financial times for everyone,” Love said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a two-year school, a community college, a four-year university, K-12, or a small business owner, it’s been difficult, and we’re trying to manage as best we can. We’re trying to figure out a way to help campuses like this to meet the demand for skilled workers, because the most valuable part of the past two months, and this is the 20th campus I’ve been on, is seeing the opportunities that we have.”
He added they hoped to take guidance from Dr. (Mark) Heinrich on what could be done.
Hawsey credited Cullman county for the support the college has received thusfar.
“We all mirror our communities, and we all have the same mission, but it takes different shapes depending on what community we’re in, so we’re a reflection of the needs of our communities. Some communities do a better jobs of investigating in their college than others, and we’ve been very fortunate to be in Cullman County. We get a lot of support here, and we try out best to honor that.”
Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 225, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org