Are Birmingham city students ready for the local workforce? - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Are Birmingham city students ready for the local workforce?

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

Birmingham City schools are the subject of a state investigation and take-over -  but we wanted to learn what type of impact it has on classrooms and in turn the local workforce. ABC 33/40 asked the business community are the district's troubles bad for business?

To start answering that question, you have to look at Birmingham's overall graduation rate. This past school year, it was just 55 percent sitting between Jefferson County's 81 percent and Bessemer at 36 percent. It's that number of diplomas, that directly effects our local workforce.

It plays out like a drama... 

The Birmingham Board of Education is at the center of a debate -- on administrators, finances, and state requirements. 

But is the system getting students ready for higher education--or the workforce?

The American Federation of Teachers says a 55% dropout rate answers that question. 

"If they don't pass the exit exam, they are not able to get into college," Richard Franklin, American Federation of Teachers in Birmingham said. "We need to focus on that - if they can't get into college, 9 times out of 10 they're not going to, you know, finish school and it will be hard for them to get a job."

Local business leaders tell us, the school system isn't as bad as it seems during administration meetings.

"We want the best of the best in who we  hire," Tony Smoke, Division Area Manager, Alabama Power said.

Alabama Power frequently hires Birmingham grads - in fact, two of their executives received a Birmingham City School diploma.

"We look to have employees who are from the local area," Smoke said. "By them being from the local area, that gives them the opportunity to get back and be engaged in their community."

The Birmingham Business Alliance says programs -  like career academies -  are often left in the shadows.

"Our schools are solid and they are trending upward," Marcus Lundy, Vice President, Education Development, Birmingham Business Alliance said.  "I'm excited about the possibilities of Birmingham city."

"Whether you are over the mountain, or inside the city, you're going to get the same quality education," Lundy said.

The AFT doesn't agree.

"If our dropout rate continues to go up, and it doesn't get any better, those students will not be able to work at Alabama Power or any other company around because they need to have a high school diploma and right now, most jobs are asking for more than that - they are asking for at least three years of college," Franklin said.

"It's important that we are representative of the products of our education in this area," Smoke said.

Several local industries say they're being pro-active - working with students. Alabama Power employees mentor Birmingham students and the Business Alliance tells us, the district's career academies are accredited by the state.