MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. – We’ve seen the cheers and celebrations as high school seniors sign with colleges to play sports at the next level. Thursday morning, the same type of signing celebration took place for those beginning their careers and education.
With the stroke of pens – 19 stories begin. 12 companies in northwest Alabama drafted 19 student workers from a candidate pool. Men and women who will go to school two days a week, and work three days a week for their new employer. The Pilgrim’s plant in Russellville is one of the industry partners.
“This will give us somebody who not only has the hands-on abilities, but some of the classroom time to advance his knowledge that we so desperately need,” said plant manager Zachary Cummings.
Pilgrim’s drafted Preston Hughes for the Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education signing day. A partnership with Northwest Shoals Community College, students will be given the opportunity to earn enough money to cover tuition and receive an education.
“It just opened up opportunities for me,” said Hughes. “I mean, I would have been a fool to not take it because you get work experience – college experience and you are almost guaranteed a 100% hire-in rate.”
A recent graduate of East Lawrence High School, Hughes says he looks forward to the two-year program. He will be able to gain advanced knowledge for his career path – while becoming the first person in his family to go to college.
“I like the hands-on ability. I like to get dirty whenever I’m working. I like to know that when I go home, I’m going to be tired,” Hughes said.
Work for the students will begin immediately, and they start their college careers in August.
The FAME program began in Kentucky almost a decade ago with Toyota as one of the initial industry partners and spread into Alabama during recent years.