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New auto plant to increase demand for skilled workers; high school providing training

Shelby County vocational school offers training for jobs the new Mazda and Toyota plant will need. (MGN)

The Toyota and Mazda plant announcement means more economic growth for the state of Alabama.

A skilled workforce will be needed for the 4,000 jobs automakers say the plant will create.

Some workers could be ready right out of high school.

Shelby County high school students are building skills now to possibly fill these positions. Instructors say their training makes them a valuable commodity. While the new plant won't open until 2021, instructors Robert Irwin and James Hill are already training area high schoolers in Columbiana for those jobs.

Irwin handles the automotive classes at the Shelby County Career Technical Educational Center.

Irwin explains, "We just get our high schools students prepared for the workforce, [so] they don't necessarily have to go to college."

It's a career choice he enjoys helping young people navigate.

"A lot of young people out there who don't have an avenue, and when you have young people who show interest in a program like this," says Irwin as he taps his heart. "...Right here is the reason I do this job."

Shelby County CTEC students are already prepared to enter the workforce, as the only difference between work now and after graduation is a switch from part-time to full-time.

"This is representative of an automated warehouse," Hill explains. Hill teaches robotics at CTEC, which is a skill he says employers want right on the factory floor.

He says, "No matter how many robotic arms you have, you have to have the things to move the parts into place and to make sure they're where they are supposed to be - when they are supposed to be there."

Lawson and Jeff State Community Colleges, and the Alabama Workforce Training Center, offer similar manufacturing courses.

Positive Maturity, a program providing resources to find job skills and training for people fifty and older, could also be of service for these positions.

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