Students in Coastal Alabama Community College’s Paper and Chemical Technology program have discovered yet another product that Alabama’s massive amount of kudzu can’t be used for.
Paper. But what the students have also found are many good-paying jobs available to them in the Pulp and Paper manufacturing industry after studying at Coastal for certificates and degrees that land them jobs in a prominent manufacturing sector in the state.
Alabama is the second largest producer of pulp, paper and paper board in the nation, according to the Alabama Forestry Association (AFA). The forest products industry is the second largest industry in the state.
A business operation as large as pulp and paper requires thousands of workers that Alabama’s community colleges can help train. AFA reports more than 123,000 jobs in the state result from the economic activity driven by the forest products industry, with more than 4,000 jobs added in the last three years.
“It’s a great opportunity and market that spreads out – you have to have loggers, diesel mechanics, and all other suppliers because if you don’t, we don’t have toilet paper in the grocery store,” said Scott Dees, Division Chair for Career Technical Education at Coastal Alabama Community College.
Dees said a pulp and chemical degree from Coastal gives students leverage to becoming operators in Alabama’s paper mills, which he said is the ultimate goal. His division trains students in a $10 million simulated lab with equipment such as boilers and cooling towers that students will actually work on in paper and chemical plants. The simulated lab gets students well prepared for the industry.
“We actually have one company that on the application asks people if they’ve completed our program,” Dees said. “We have a very strong industry alliance committee that comes in and examines our programs. They really want well-rounded students, so all of our students take electrical and mechanical aptitude classes.”
Dees said graduates interested in the pulp and paper industry look at making about $16 to $18 per hour initially, in addition to excellent benefit packages. He said families tend to start in the industry and work there for generations.
“It’s shift work, and it takes people willing to learn multiple areas, but it’s a great opportunity,” he said.
For more about the types of jobs, salaries and training programs available in the pulp and paper industry in the state, click here.