UWA, Mercedes-Benz unveil auto tech training facility

The University of West Alabama, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc., and Alabama Power Company unveiled a new facility that will be used for UWA’s automotive technology training certification program. The facility, renovated through support by Alabama Power Company and the Alabama Power Foundation, is equipped with several engines and a new C-Class donated by MBUSI. Phil Johnston of MBUSI and UWA President Ken Tucker cut the ribbon on the facility with the support of several representatives and officials including, from left, UWA’s Curtis Jones and Veronica Triplett, UWA Trustee Thed Spree, Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Ala.), Alabama Power Company’s Mikki Ruttan and Joseph Brown, UWA Trustee John Northcutt, Professor Donnie Cobb, , MBUSI’s Steve Colburn, and UWA Board Chairman Terry Bunn.

The University of West Alabama, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc., and Alabama Power Company unveiled a new facility that will be used for UWA’s automotive technology training certification program. The facility, renovated through support by Alabama Power Company and the Alabama Power Foundation, is equipped with several engines and a new C-Class donated by MBUSI. Phil Johnston of MBUSI and UWA President Ken Tucker cut the ribbon on the facility with the support of several representatives and officials including, from left, UWA’s Curtis Jones and Veronica Triplett, UWA Trustee Thed Spree, Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Ala.), Alabama Power Company’s Mikki Ruttan and Joseph Brown, UWA Trustee John Northcutt, Professor Donnie Cobb, , MBUSI’s Steve Colburn, and UWA Board Chairman Terry Bunn.

LIVINGSTON — Preparing Alabama’s workforce has been a priority for the University of West Alabama through several initiatives launched in recent years. One is UWA’s Automotive Technician certification program, for which the university has joined with several industry partners, including Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) to ensure program success and long-term benefits for the state.

Of the students who successfully complete the program, at least the top 75 percent will advance to MBUSI and earn a full-time job in production, and that statistic has stirred interest across the region.

On February 11, representatives from MBUSI, Alabama Power Company, and several industry and education partners joined UWA on campus for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the facility established for the auto tech program.

UWA President Ken Tucker welcomed a host of elected officials from the area, members of the school’s board of trustees, several area educators and business representatives, and workforce developers.

In particular, Tucker welcomed and thanked three organizations that he says have made possible the program and facility, including MBUSI, Alabama Power, and Shelton State Community College.

“UWA and Shelton State have long enjoyed a mutually supportive relationship in workforce and community development, as well as academics, and without their guidance and support we would not have been able to successfully launch our auto tech program,” Tucker said.

Tucker described the Automotive Technician Certificate program as a partnership with Shelton State and MBUSI.

“Our purpose is to support Shelton State Community College, through an agreement with Mercedes-Benz, to deliver specialized training to meet the growing skilled-employee needs of automobile manufacturers and suppliers in Alabama,” Tucker explained.

“UWA’s goal is to help meet Mercedes’ staffing needs for trained, skilled production workers,” Tucker said. “By addressing additional labor demand, UWA will in essence help expand Mercedes’ recruiting and retention talent pool.”

UWA will then provide skilled automotive technician training through a formal short certificate program, patterned directly from Shelton’s model, to those Mercedes identified employees and prospective employees.

The Automotive Technician Short Certificate curriculum is a three-semester program (fall, spring, summer) consisting of 27 credit hours (9 courses) in electrical/electronics, total productive maintenance, mechanical systems, and automotive systems like engine repair, braking systems, steering and suspension, drivetrain and axles. Courses are offered three days a week in 4-hour sections so students can work for Mercedes other days.

MBUSI donated a variety of equipment to UWA to enhance its training program, including several engines and a new Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The equipment will be used in the workshop being used by UWA for the Applied Manufacturing Technology Program to provide hands-on training that Mercedes-Benz says is necessary to move their product forward.

“We know that if we’re going to continue to advance our products and processes, we must advance our workforce,” Phil Johnston, MBUSI Vice President of Engineering, told the crowd on Wednesday. “We sat down with UWA two years ago and said, ‘Are you brave enough to embark on an experiment with us?’ and that’s what we’ve done.”

Johnston also serves on Governor Robert Bentley’s Alabama Workforce Council, and he chairs Region 3 of the Workforce Development Council.  The additional roles take a lot of time, but Johnston said that MBUSI is proud to address workforce needs on a journey together with UWA. He said that workforce training cannot simply be a buzzword or hot topic.

“At some point, the rubber has to hit the road, and in this partnership with UWA we are answering that vision,” Johnston said.
Alabama Power Company, a longtime partner of UWA, has played a key role in the development of the program and the new facility. Through support from Alabama Power Foundation, UWA established several years ago the Center for Business and Economic Services, which led the efforts of securing a U.S. Department of Labor grant to create the school’s Applied Manufacturing Technology program.

Through continued support from Alabama Power, UWA renovated the building that serves as the new training facility for the auto tech program.

“We knew we were taking a chance,” said Joseph Brown, external affairs manager for Alabama Power “and we’re proud of the accomplishments that we see here.” Brown said that Alabama Power wanted to promote workforce development and that UWA was a perfect partner for them. “We knew if we wanted to make a huge impact, we would do it at UWA.”

Upon completion of the program, students will gain the hands-on experience and training necessary to transition from classroom to workplace flawlessly, meaning they will have very little, if any, down time, and they can immediately become productive members of Alabama’s growing workforce.

To learn more about UWA’s AMT programs, visit www.uwa.edu/amtprograms.aspx.

To apply for the auto tech training program, visit www.mbusi.com and click on the “Employment” tab.