FLORENCE — The Workforce Development and Education work group stressed the importance of promoting initiatives such as the new Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) program at its final meeting on Wednesday.

The group also talked about funding the Shoals Scholar Dollars program and the importance of matching local labor skills with those that local businesses need.

The FAME program at Northwest-Shoals Community College is a structured apprenticeship that partners with local businesses and industries.

Leslie Tomlinson, executive director of Grants Development for Northwest-Shoals, said advanced manufacturing companies tell them they need employees with troubleshooting skills, high-level thinking and critical thinking skills.

"The FAME program does that," Tomlinson said. "We do career and technical training based on what advanced manufactures need. There's also a huge emphasis on speaking and being able to communicate, written communications as well as troubleshooting. It's all combined into their training on our campus."

The program has 11 business partners and is seeking more, she said.

Florence City Councilman Andy Betterton said it is essential to recognize that career technical programs and union apprenticeships are important to the community and provide quality careers.

"There's nothing second class about career tech professions," Betterton said.

The working group is among six that formed after a Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama study titled "A Greater Shoals: A Pathway" was released this year. The groups are expected to make recommendations June 18 during an overall Greater Shoals meeting.

Shoals Scholar Dollars, a tuition program to Northwest-Shoals Community College for local high school students that also provides transfer scholarships to the University of North Alabama, is funded through contributions.

However, program officials said those donations account for some $100,000 while the program needs $400,000.

There have been discussion at several other Greater Shoals meetings about expanding the purpose of the Shoals Economic Development Fund to cover that funding gap. That is expected to be among recommendations at the June meeting.

Some educators at Wednesday's meeting voiced concern about a move in the Legislature to repeal Alabama's Common Core education standards. Advocates for the repeal say it is not working. The educators said Commons Core is designed to make certain students are college- and career-ready and is making students better prepared.

Kyrel Buchanan, who oversaw Wednesday's meeting, said it could be part of the Greater Shoals group's duties to let it be known when there are concerns about legislative issues.

"There are policy decisions that are made that impact the ability to improve the quality of our education," Buchanan said. "I think that's a fair insertion into this conversation so that we become more aware of what's going on within the political sphere, but also be prepared to advocate for what happens in our education and workforce development."

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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