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Workers and high school students learn new skills at Calhoun Construction Academy – The Madison Record

Decatur Journal

DECATUR – More than a dozen people were digging dirt and spreading mulch with skid steers at Calhoun Community College on Monday for the school’s free construction course, something officials hope will prepare them for jobs in the local construction workforce.

The Calhoun Construction Academy kicked off this week, and over the course of the five-day event, students will learn how to operate skid steers, excavators, road rollers and dozers. Doug Brazier, director of workforce solutions, said the academy was the second of three such academies held this year, with a third planned for next month.

“We had our first event in June, and when word got out, we were inundated with people,” Brazier said. “So we decided to offer another one in two weeks.”

Brazier said a diverse group of high school students, retirees and those seeking additional skills attended and received certifications in June, and more than 100 more people have signed up for the courses this month.

“I have 168 on my list right now and I probably have to go through another 80 emails,” said Jamie Roberts, workforce solutions project manager. “I told them if they were interested, we would keep adding labs. We try to have at least 10 to 12 in a lab, but we can have 20 to 30 and I can hire more instructors.”

Brazier said the academy is free, but participants must register in advance and complete online modules related to building theory through the Alabama Community College System Innovation Center on Northeast Fourth Avenue.

Although the academy is a non-credit course, Brazier said, after a person receives the certifications, they will appear on his or her transcript with the Alabama Community College System. He said there is a strong chance that participants will receive a job offer during the course from local employers.

“Grayson Carter and Son (Contracting Inc.) from Athens will be here on Friday, and Wiregrass Construction will also be here on Friday,” Brazier said.

Among the young adults and recent high school graduates looking for a career Monday were also people working hard to learn new skills for their current jobs.

“We have some guys from Decatur Utilities looking at it today,” Brazier said.

Anna Christensen, 22, operated a skid steer for the first time Monday and said she had previous experience operating excavators at North Alabama Land Services in Huntsville, a company owned by her father. Instructors said she was one of a few women taking the course this week.

“I wanted to be able to help him more with his land services business,” Christensen said. “Plus, I’m studying electrical engineering in college and a lot of (employers) like it when you have experience operating heavy machinery.”

Christensen and each of his classmates took turns driving and operating skid steers near the college’s Line Worker Field, across U.S. 31 from the main campus.

Micah McKinney, 16, of Huntsville, said he wanted to take advantage of a free college course, especially one he could put on his resume.

“If all else fails, I’ll go into construction,” McKinney said.

Diego Vivero, 17, a recent West Morgan High graduate, also wants to enter the workforce soon and thought learning construction skills at no cost was something he couldn’t pass up. He said he had previous experience operating forklifts when he worked as a bricklayer.

“I was going to college to take welding classes, but I didn’t have any money, so that’s why I came here,” Vivero said.