HANCEVILLE, Ala. – When Wallace State Community College conducts its grand opening of the Center for Welding Technology and Innovation Center on Monday, Aug. 21, college officials will have many people to thank for helping make it a reality.
“We are extremely grateful for everyone who has invested in the education of our students and the future of our community,” said Wallace State President Vicki Karolewics. “We have been blessed to be the recipients of a number of grants not only for welding but for other established and new programs.”
At the 2018 groundbreaking, Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics noted the college had sought funding for the project for eight years before Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, was able to secure $2 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for the $8.5 million project. Wallace State is hopeful it will receive a second congressional appropriation in the coming year.
In 2020, the college received an additional $200,000 from a grant provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for the purchase of workforce training equipment. Industry partners Lincoln Electric, Holston Gases and Fastenal have each helped in a number of ways throughout the building process. Another $25,000 has been provided by the Cullman County Industrial Development Board, also to purchase equipment.
At the time the ARC grant was awarded, it was noted the welding program would be able to expand its highly successful reach and provide an estimated 110 workers in the Southern Appalachian region each year with more opportunities for training in the high-skill, high-wage and high-demand welding trade and help meet the employment needs of some 40 new and current manufacturing businesses in North Alabama.
In October 2022, an ARC POWER Initiative grant provided $1.17 million to Wallace State for the Supporting Electric Vehicle Manufacturing and Maintenance in North Alabama project. Wallace State will partner with the American Trucking Association, Freightliner, Kenworth and Mercedes-Benz to bring their Mechatronics, Automotive Services and Diesel Technician programs into alignment with electric vehicle (EV) needs. Nissan has recently joined the ranks of Wallace State EV partners. These needs include technicians ready for smart manufacturing and the servicing of electric vehicles and electric heavy-duty trucks.
This award followed a 2021 ARC POWER grant for the college’s Prepping the Talent Pipeline for Economic Growth and Diversification Planning Project that provided $23,191 to assess the current and projected state of automotive manufacturing in Appalachia. The resulting strategic plan helped inform WSCC’s educational and capital plan to meet the evolving employment needs of the industry, as demand for autonomous and electric vehicle manufacturing increases. It is also expected to guide the program development of WSCC’s automotive manufacturing-related programs for the next 10 years.
This fall, the college will begin offering an electric vehicle program for new automotive technologies, and an electrical technology program for the training of industrial, commercial and residential electricians.
Wallace State has also been successful in securing awards from the National Science Foundation, Altec and the Women’s Fund of Greater Alabama to bolster the recruitment and training of women in traditionally male dominated fields.
Capital investment totaling $48 million impacting three facilities includes a combination of legislative appropriations, federal grant funds, Alabama Community College System grants and local funds.