The Scottsboro-Jackson County Chamber of Commerce recognized in the fall of 1992 that the number one issue in community and economic development is education. The Chamber used the following facts about education in our area to reach their decision:
■ The high school dropout rate, grades 9-12, was six percent in Jackson County.
■ Seventeen percent of the adult population in Jackson County was functionally illiterate (cannot read the phone book or read instructions on a prescription label).
■ Most of the major employers in Jackson County required a high school education.
■ Forty-Two percent of the population in Jackson County over age 25 did not have a high school education.
All these statements are supported by the fact that higher education is a key element in the cycle that produces better paying jobs which support a stronger economy that fosters a better life for us all. Therefore, an Educational Committee was formed within the Chamber of Commerce. After several months of deliberation, this committee decided to address two education issues: workplace illiteracy and the high school dropout rate.
The second part of the educational issue, workplace illiteracy, required consideration of two different problems. The first problem was identified as job specific workplace education. This dealt with how to better train employees in existing jobs.
The second part of the workplace illiteracy problem dealt with the issue of uneducated and the unemployed with over one third of Jackson County adults not having a high school education.
The Workplace Literacy Committee adopted the name of the Jackson County 21st Century Council and developed a mission statement which reads:
Recognizing that a well-educated and trained workforce is a key element to economic growth, the mission is to provide basic education, job skills training and higher education opportunities for the people of Jackson County.
This mission statement is being accomplished by meeting the following goals:
■ Provide and implement plans, programs, facilities equipment and personnel for the academic and/or technical training of our workforce.
■ Help adults to complete their high school education through attainment of GED.
■ Assist local businesses and industries by offering to evaluate potential employees per job specific skills and also provide jobs "profiling" for our employers.
■ Serve as a catalyst for new business and industrial equipment by providing customized training to insure that a capable workforce is available to meet their needs.
■ Establish an educational foundation to promote excellence in education by providing "extras in the classroom by channeling private funds to educational efforts for grades K-12."
Through community partnerships and an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant, the adult learning center, developed by a partnership between employers, educators and community leaders, has become a reality for the people of Jackson County. Our county has the talent gifts of leadership and resources to become whatever our community wants to become. Community partnerships can redevelop our county by providing jobs which support a stronger economy that fosters a better life for all of us.
At first, the 21st Century Council Adult Career Center was located at 27150 John T. Reid Parkway, then moved into the old High School being renovated for Collins Elementary. The next move was to the basement of Page Elementary while renovations were completed on the former lunchroom where IMPACT was located until 2012. In 2012, IMPACT leased the fromer police administrative building located at 23123 John T. Reid Parkway and, after making extensive renovations, opened at its current location in June, 2012. The current facility houses both IMPACT and the Alabama Career Center in an updated facility in a highly visible location. Being co-located with the Alabama Career Center gives clients a one-stop location to train and look for jobs.
All types of programs are conducted at IMPACT, from beginner and advanced computer classes to job development and job skills training. With the aid of computer-based, videos, self-paced curriculum and hands-on instruction and support, people can brush up on their computer skills, receive career counseling, update resumes, learn how to prepare for job interviews, and learn job retention skills.
IMPACT also houses GED Preparation Classes, Adult Reading Classes, English as a second language (ESL) and the JOBS Readiness Class. We also offer Teamwork Results Achievement and Career Success Job Readiness training, a variety of computer classes, career exploration and much more.
The 21st Century Council received an ARC matching grant for Phase I of the Jackson County Distance Learning Project and placed video teleconferencing (VTC) equipment at the career center, at the new Scottsboro High School and at the Earnest Pruett Center of Technology (EPCOT). With a second ARC matching grant, Phase II has also been installed, adding 5 additional sites to the network.
Today standards of education are not just measured from county to county but by our world...with global standards. It used to mean a lot to be the best county in the state but in the near future this will mean less and less.
With VTC, the 21st Century Council hopes that no child will be penalized for living in Jackson County just because they don't go to a Birmingham, Huntsville, or Atlanta school-they can still have a great education in Jackson County.
In addition to the tremendous potential VTC brings to education, it also opens up a multitude of doors for local industry, government, the medical community and higher education. The opportunities are endless.
Results of IMPACT's Efforts
Jackson County has closed the gap on high school educational attainment since the formation of IMPACT in 1992*.
The increase in the Jackson County high school attainment percentage over the Alabama percentage represents over 1000 additional people with their high school diploma or GED in Jackson County.
* Source - US Census Data