GUNTERSVILLE – A shortage of qualified meat cutters is leaving Alabama grocery stores and butcher shops desperate for skilled workers. That labor shortfall can also impact the price shoppers pay for their favorite cuts of meat.
To fill the gap in qualified workers, the Alabama Community College System has developed a new course to train the next generation of meat cutters. The pilot program for the course took place this week at the Foodland Plus grocery store in Guntersville, where six students got hands-on training they’ll need for jobs as master meat cutters. Now that the pilot is complete, the training will soon be available at community colleges across the state.
“There’s a huge need for this, not only for the state of Alabama but all over the country,” said Carey Otwell, Director of Meat for Mitchell Grocery Corp., a wholesale grocery distribution center. “Today we’re really looking for people who want to start a career.”
The training is offered through a rapid workforce training curriculum called Skills for Success, which the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) developed through the ACCS Innovation Center and business and industry partners. Skills for Success targets training for jobs that Alabama companies say are in demand and can be filled quickly.
The appeal to trainees – other than getting the skills needed for an in-demand job – is that Skills for Success training is offered at no cost thanks to appropriations from the Legislature and can usually be completed in two to three weeks.
A reason the training can be completed so quickly is part of it is offered online, with self-paced interactive learning that can take place anywhere a student can connect to the Internet. Upon completing the online portion of the course, students then complete hands-on training with qualified instructors.
Before coming to Foodland Plus, the students had to complete approximately 12 hours of online learning, followed by eight hours of hands-on training.
“It was very convenient,” said Will Whatley of Montgomery, who is looking to take the training and start a new career. “I was even able to do [the online portion] on my phone just a few times a week for 45 minutes to an hour.”
More than 2,700 Alabamians have registered for training since Skills for Success was launched last year. Skills for Success currently offers rapid, no-cost training for jobs in industries ranging from construction and trucking to food and beverage services. Additional courses, including those focused on fiber optics and hotel operations, are being developed.
For more information and to register for training, go online and visit innovation.accs.edu/.