SkillsUSA Career Expo in Birmingham provides ‘roadmap’ to good jobs

SkillsUSA Career Expo in Birmingham provides ‘roadmap’ to good jobs
There's a safe way to work around a transformer, as demonstrated by Nathaniel Anderson (left), a Power Delivery Distribution lineman for Alabama Power's Patton Chapel Crew Headquarters, during the SkillsUSA Career Fair and Expo at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Gadsden City High School sophomore Kendrick Threatt said he wants a good-paying job after high school, and wanted to learn how to prepare for technical jobs. (Donna Cope / Alabama NewsCenter)

Finding the right career is a journey: A roadmap can help in navigating the twists and turns on the route to a successful career.

At the recent SkillsUSA Career Expo, Kendrick Threatt was in the right place to plot his course in life. Threatt, a sophomore at Gadsden City High School, wants a job in which he can work with his hands.

“I want a job in the future that I can be happy with, that I can work with my hands and be able to look back at it, and be proud about it,” Threatt said. “I just like working with my hands, and I grew up doing that when I was working with my Dad. I want to go to college for a couple of years and get a good future. I want to be a good family man and make a decent amount of money for my family in the future.”

Threatt was among 3,000 teens who descended on the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex for the SkillsUSA College and Career Fair. The expo offered a hands-on, interactive experience for exploring careers. More than 50 companies presented “Worlds of Work” for construction, advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare, hospitality and tourism, information technology, public service and safety.

SkillsUSA gives teens guidance, advice to get good-paying jobs from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Antiqua Cleggett, executive director of Central Six Alabama Works, said the goal of SkillsUSA is to encourage students to explore career and technical education  as pathways to viable living wage opportunities that are local.

“We want to encourage our talent supply to remain in the state of Alabama, doing something they love,” Cleggett said. “But if they must leave Alabama, we want them to have the necessary skills and abilities to be competitive on a national scale.”

SkillsUSA allows students to engage with the partner companies, identify careers they’re interested in and create hands-on interactions that link careers to the classroom. Visiting the event for just under two hours, students pick their favorites from the “Worlds” to visit, learning about careers available close to home.

Making a difference, one interaction at a time

About 20 Alabama Power and Southern Company employees interacted with students, offering encouragement and advice about classes that prepare students for technical jobs.

McNeal said the intent is to get students prepared for skilled labor positions.

“Everyone was very engaged with the students,” said Tom McNeal, Workforce Development Specialist – Technical Training. “There really is a roadmap, of sorts, to various careers. If students want to go into a technical career such as engineering, for instance, they should be taking the right classes in high school: match, science and technologies.

“I heard many great one-on-one conversations where we were able to connect students with our jobs,” said McNeal, who has worked at the company nearly 20 years. “The hand-offs between our interactive displays and the recruiters really helped the students understand what they need to do to prepare themselves for the requirements of our different positions.”

Returning for their third year to SkillsUSA, Alabama Power Recruiting Consultants Jason Watters and Justin Hogsett helped welcome students. Their goal: to plant the seeds for the future of the company in skilled craft labor.

“This is a very valuable event we attend each year,” said Watters, who recruits Transmission and Distribution employees. “A lot of these students have an idea about what they want to do, but they don’t know how to do it, or what resources are available for them to achieve those goals that they have.

We speak to as many students as we can to let them know about Alabama Power does and the industry, and opportunities they have in the Southeast,” said Watters, a Morehouse College graduate who has worked at the company for six years.

Hogsett, who earned a construction management degree from Tuskegee University, told students about technical schools and certifications to qualify for skilled jobs, including utility assistant on line crews or plant auxiliaries working inside the electric-generating plants.

“It’s very important the we talk to the kids about jobs in the industry at this age,” Hogsett, who supports Operations, Generation and company electric-generating facilities except for Plant Barry. “We’ve noticed there’s a gap in common knowledge and education around the type of opportunities around skilled craft labor, and the opportunities for students who want to work with their hands and work in more industrial settings. We want to talk with those students, especially those who haven’t really identified what they want to do yet, or those who do want to work in the industry and just don’t know what route to go for training.”

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