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Dallas County Technical Center hosts career fair

Tables draped with colorful cloths and piled high with brochures created a maze at the Dallas County Career Technical Center. Representatives from universities, colleges and technical schools across the country met with students Thursday to discuss future academic and career opportunities. The career fair capped off Career Technical Education Month, and allowed students to learn about schools they otherwise might not be able to visit.

“Since the economic times are real hard, I wanted to bring the colleges to them,” assistant director Jerolene Williams said.

Students from Dallas County High School, Selma High School, Southside High School and Keith High School learned about careers in welding, cosmetology, industrial maintenance, drafting and design, and automotive and diesel mechanics, just to name a few. They flipped through glossy brochures, snacked on fresh fruit and talked with instructors about classes and scholarships.

Marcus Shelton, a junior at Southside High School, read brochures at one of Wallace Community College-Selma’s booths. Shelton participates in the Automotive Mechanics Program at the technical center and works at his father’s paint and body shop. Shelton said acquiring a trade through hands-on learning opens the door to many possibilities.

“It gives you a good opportunity to go to college,” Shelton said. “Of course.”

Dallas County Schools administrative assistant Dr. Vicie Larkin visited with students at the career fair Thursday. Larkin said she spoke with a few students who already received scholarship offers from some of the schools at the fair.

“The students were actually soaking up the information like a sponge,” Larkin said.

Jeff Gaydon, an admissions representative from Tulsa Welding School, said students from Dallas County make excellent welders, thanks in part to the staff at the technical center. After completing the school’s seven-month program, graduates start out making about $40,000 a year. Gayden said the combination of a solid salary and 200,00 vacancies in the industry make welding a reliable choice for students, even during tough economic times.

“Welding is in demand right now,” Gayden said.

Alabama schools were well represented, too. Representatives from Miles College and Alabama State University attended. WCCS sent representatives from seven programs to the career fair. Williams said WCCS is a valuable asset to Dallas County.

“They have so much to offer students,” Williams said. “I’ll put Wallace up against any school.”

But all the brochures, key chains and free plastic cups handed out at the career fair do not mean a thing if students cannot find jobs. Each university, college and technical school boasted its ability to place students in their career of choice. Wyotech admissions representative Jim Moore said the automotive mechanics school graduates 200 students every four month. The advanced diesel program even places 100 percent of its graduates.

“We’re graduating and getting them hired as quick as we can,” Moore said.

Dallas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Fannie Major-McKenzie said it was refreshing to know the students planned for a future after high school.

“I think it’s critical,” McKenzie said. “The skills students are getting in the courses are lifelong skills, and they will be able to purse job opportunities.”