Wallace State, Mercedes-Benz begin tech co-op partnership


Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) Vice President Rolf Wrona shakes hands with Wallace State Community President Dr. Vicki Karolewics Friday at the college, as Wallace State’s Dean of Applied Technologies, Jimmy Hodges, looks on. Wallace State has formed a new partnership with Mercedes-Benz and its Mercedes-Benz Tech Co-Op program. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

HANCEVILLE – High school students, Wallace State Community College (WSCC) students, WSCC faculty, elected officials and more filled the lecture hall at Wallace State’s Burrow Center for a special announcement Friday morning. Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) Vice President Rolf Wrona made the trip to Hanceville to announce a new partnership between WSCC and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. that will provide new opportunities for students. The partnership includes not only a co-op program for students but also the donation of two new Mercedes SUVs to the WSCC auto service technology program to be used for training purposes. 

Through the cooperative education arrangement Mercedes-Benz will provide support for WSCC students’ tuition and fees as well as an hourly rate of pay during their work at Mercedes and an allowance for housing while there.

WSCC President Dr. Vicki Karolewics kicked off the ceremony by talking about the new partnership and its goals.

“We all know how critical strong training programs are to filling the talent pipelines necessary for a highly skilled and available work force in the state of Alabama. Mercedes-Benz has long been a leader in that effort to partner with community colleges to develop its skilled workforce,” she said. “Recently, we invited Mr. Steve Colburn and Mercedes to our campus to introduce him to Wallace State’s program and we were delighted to engage in negotiations with them that resulted in today’s announcement, officially launching a Mercedes tech co-op partnership. We look forward to a long, equally rewarding partnership with Mercedes-Benz to provide highly skilled automotive technicians for the Mercedes-Benz workforce and we are especially grateful for their significant investment in quality training.”

Wallace State’s Dean of Applied Technologies Jimmy Hodges took to the podium next to share his excitement for the new program and explain how it will work for the students.

“This agreement is for students who enroll in the automotive service program. The students must apply to the Mercedes tech program, and if they are selected, they must successfully complete the following spring semester and then they will work at the Mercedes plant during the summer semester. They will earn $16 per hour and receive a $400 per month housing allowance,” Hodges said. “They will return to Wallace State for their second fall and spring semesters before working their second summer at the Mercedes plant for $17 per hour plus $400 a month for a housing allowance. There is also tuition assistance that will be provided for students and its based upon their GPA. It can include up to 100 percent of tuition and fees. Once a student successfully completes the program, they will be hired as a full-time Mercedes-Benz employee, which is an amazing thing to happen to a young person. This is a tremendous opportunity for our students and we are delighted to partner with Mercedes-Benz.”

After remarks from Cullman Economic Development Director Dale Greer, Executive Director of Workforce and Economic Development for the Alabama Community College System Barry May and Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, Wrona spoke about the relationship between Mercedes-Benz and Wallace State as well as the excitement for the program on the company’s end.

“We have an additional need, a demand for steel and automotive technology students. As you’ve heard, our team has seen multiple community colleges and Wallace State Community College has a really fantastic reputation. That’s why I am very excited to announce that Mercedes-Benz U.S. International is partnering with Wallace State to create this Mercedes tech co-op program,” Wrona said. “It’s a great opportunity for students in this community to get a quality education at Wallace State and get quality work experience at Mercedes-Benz. Jimmy (Hodges) mentioned the tuition support, between 50 and 100 percent of your tuition will be covered by Mercedes-Benz and the higher your GPA, the more we cover. To show our commitment to Wallace State, we’re donating two, brand-new GLEs because we feel it’s very important that students get hands-on experience with our products before they come to our co-op terms here. When I say brand-new, I mean brand-new; they’re not even on the market yet, so this is our newest generation of SUV that will be in the market next year. We are very excited to form this partnership and we are looking forward to the truly tremendous opportunities that will exist for the students at Wallace State and MBUSI.”

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