MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — This past August, the financial analysis company Wallethub offered up a survey of the best and worst community colleges in the country. Bishop State in Mobile came in 692 our of 698 colleges profiled. That had the school’s administration immediately pushing back.
“It was very upsetting to me—to the administration, faculty, and staff here at Bishop,” said President Reginald Sykes.
Sykes says Wallethub must not have done their homework when it comes to finding out what Bishop is doing to further workforce development along the Gulf Coast, including several programs designed to land people jobs.
“With workforce training, our career tech program, a student can come here and learn a skill and go to work,” he said.
Those programs include courses like the one at Bishop State’s campus on Dauphin Island Parkway. It’s a partnership with Alabama Power that started last year that has already landed lineman jobs for students.
“That’s correct,” said program director Greg Rudolph. “We had 23 in the first class. They all got jobs in the industry.”
The community college has also built one of the largest welding programs on the Gulf coast–a partnership with Ingalls Shipbuilding.
“With Austal here, with Ingalls down the street, the opportunities are great here for a young person or even an older person to come back and get some skills and find a very thriving career here,” said Dr. Andrea Agnew, Associate Dean of Instruction at Bishop.
The welding program has been a mainstay at Bishop for years along with another program many may not know about. Its truck driving program has been in place since 1988, now with the recent addition of a driving simulator.
“We’ve grown this program to one of the biggest truck driving programs in the state of Alabama,” said program director Brad Wallace. “We’ve had lots of students. We do a class every eight weeks.”
And all of these programs are designed to fill the need for skilled employees–a need that is assessed each year.
“One of the things that we do annually is evaluate our programs—we look at the successes of the services that we provide, not only for our students but for the community as a whole,” said Claude Bumpers, the Director of Institutional Research.
Soon, Bishop State will launch another workforce initiative–a new advanced manufacturing facility.
“So it’s going to house several different programs–electronic engineering, electrical programs, also process technology programs, CNC and machine tool programs, robotics and a number of other programs related to those,” said David Felton, the school’s Dean of Workforce and Economic Development.
The advanced manufacturing facility should be completed in about a year.