Shoals students guiding tomorrow’s workforce


13 Muscle Shoals Career Academy students are a part of the Pathfinder Alabama program. (Photo By: MSCA)

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MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (WHNT) - It's no secret that students who attend career academies are there to prepare themselves for the workforce.

Muscle Shoals Career Academy has partnered with Lyons HR to create a work-based learning program for students in the Shoals. It's an idea that puts experienced students in real-world work settings. It's also one of a kind.

'Pathfinder Alabama' is a program MSCA Director Gary Dan Williams worked on for years. They placed their 13 best and brightest students in paid, technical internships.

"We've known for some time that our students need a meaningful work experience," said Williams. "Businesses needed to step up and reach out to the students who will create their workforce, we can't do it alone."

Six local companies partnered with the academy including Shoals Hospital, Navistar, MS Metal Solutions and more. Lyons HR is covering liability and payroll.

Students are working in positions such as patient care technicians, welders, and assembly technicians. They've made it a part of their school days, earning a paycheck and high school credits.

"They want a career in that area," Williams continues. "It's not something to just pass the time. Our companies are really investing time and resources into these young people and hoping they can get a future employee out of them."

A handful of welding students are OSHA-10 certified, as well as hold ten certifications with the American Welding Society.

Other students are already Certified Nursing Assistants.

"If these students aren't career ready, then I don't know who is."

Williams hopes the Pathfinder Alabama program spreads to other school systems in the state. In April, a second group of students will interview for 2015-2016 internship placements.