By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, October 19, 2017 Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) was the keynote speaker at the ground-breaking ceremony celebrating the construction of Wallace State-Oneonta’s new technical training facility. The governor announced her support for this initiative, which she said could be a model for all of rural Alabama. Ivey presented the project a $2.3 million grant.
The project includes the construction of 20,000 square feet, which will house academic and workforce development space as well as economic development offices for both Oneonta and Blount County. There is currently an 18,000 square foot technical training facility in use with approximately 450 students enrolled.
The Governor was joined by Oneonta Mayor Ross Norris, Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker, President of Wallace State Dr. Vickie Karolewics, Blount County Probate Judge Chris Green, state Rep. David Standridge, R-Hayden, Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, state Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, as well as other elected officials.
Ivey said that by the 2020s, 62 percent of all jobs will require some sort of skills certificate and training, an associate’s degree, a four-year degree or a PhD. Presently, only 37 percent of Alabama’s workforce has any post-secondary education. Ivey thanked all of the people involved in bringing this project to Oneonta, including Sen. Shelnutt and Rep. Standridge. Ivey said that in the future, Alabama will have the workforce that employers are looking for rather than paying people to locate their projects in Alabama.
Alabama Two Year College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker praised the governor for her active involvement in improving Alabama’s educational system and for her interest and understanding of education. Chancellor Baker also praised Wallace State President Vickie Karolewics for her leadership and said that he wished that he could clone her.
President Karolewics said that she grew up in rural Conecuh County and that this project could be a model for the rest of rural Alabama. Karolewics thanked the leadership for the welding program; but that now it needed more machines.
Congressman Palmer said, “I was pleased to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Wallace State-Oneonta Center. The education and training center will provide residents of Blount County with opportunities for postsecondary education as well as career and technical training. Special thanks to Wallace State President Vicki Karolewics and Wallace State-Oneonta Center Director Kelley Jones.”
The new construction will be on a large vacant lot at the corner of 1st Avenue & 1st Street in downtown Oneonta.
Wallace State’s Oneonta Campus began in the summer of 2016. That first class of 138 students beginning Wallace State’s enrollment at the new Oneonta campus center has grown to 450 today, with at least 100 more expected for the fall semester next year.
75 percent of courses offered are academic courses and 25 percent are technical training.
“The excitement about the growth around here affects both faculty and students,” said Wallace State Oneonta center director Dr. Kelly Jones. “They’re realizing, along with people out in the community, the reality that we have a real college in town.”
Wallace State Community College, with campuses in Hanceville and Oneonta, was recently named one of 150 community colleges in the nation and eligible to compete for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges.