UA working to increase high school interest in computer science

Foundation has awarded a three-year, $1 million to grant to the University of Alabama to help improve interest in computer science among high school students. 


Beginning in January, the grant will help the university train 50 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in computer science. The proposed courses would allow high school students to get early college credit in the field.


According to a press release, the grant builds on the work of Jeff Gray, associate professor of computer science in the UA college of engineering. 


"Technology is as important to learn now as physics was 100 years ago, yet computer science is not taught in the overwhelming majority of high schools," Gray said in a statement.



Montgomery Technical Education Center, Alabama High School, Offers Students Different Pathway To Success


When freshman Ward Andrew learned about the construction program at the new Montgomery Technical Educational Center, he didn't think twice about registration.

"My uncle is a carpenter," he said. "I've always wanted to be like him, so I thought I would give it a shot and see how it works out."

Nearing three months into the school year, he said it's been great. He likes the schedule, which includes two days of lab work per week in addition to traditional core classes on the other days. Students are bused for the labs to Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School for carpentry or H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College for welding, electrical and HVAC.

Students also receive collaborative classroom instruction from both their core and trade teachers.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Donald Dotson called the high school, which is housed in the former McIntyre Middle School building, an untraditional approach that seeks to service those whose preference is for hands-on learning.

"They are teaching applied academics and project-based learning," he said. "We're excited. We feel we have a diamond in the rough, and we are meeting a need. This fills a void we didn't have, regardless of where they fall in the spectrum."

Upon graduation, students will leave MTEC with trade credentials as well as the same diploma as those who graduate from the district's other high schools. They will be prepared for further studies or for an entry-level job, according to Principal William Dean.

"We know every kid is not going to want to go to college, but at the same time, every child would like a good living," he said.

Pursuing that dream was Karlton Brown's motivation for choosing MTEC instead of continuing his studies at Robert E. Lee High School.

The junior said he wants to start his own welding business after leaving high school.

"I like to work hands-on," he said. "Instead of sitting in the classroom all the time, we get to go out in the field and do something new. When I get out of high school, I will already know what to do."

Currently, the school has 135 students enrolled and 20 faculty and staff members. Although that number doesn't match the initial estimates of nearly 300 students for the first year, Dotson said it can be viewed as a positive.

"With a new program, you want to start small so you can build a good foundation and work out the kinks," he said. "We have the interest, but I think the numbers we have right now lend themselves to solidifying the program and getting us ready to move to a larger facility."

The board of education recently approved the purchase of the old Parisian's building at Montgomery Mall, which is across the street from Trenholm, to house the school.

"We want to get our numbers up to 500 or 600 students, and we can't do that here," Dotson said.

The district has yet to make public the decision on what will become of the renovated McIntyre building, but Dotson said moving into a larger space also will allow for in-house labs.

In the coming years, there will be a phase-in of low-cost sports such as volleyball, tennis or golf, and they hope to offer an ROTC partnership through the students' home schools.

Right now, Dean said the biggest challenge at the new school is busing -- students are bused to and from their regularly-zoned school each day and to lab sites on Wednesdays and Fridays.

On the other hand, he said students said they like the class sizes.

"They like the smaller setting," he said. "They're not lost in the shuffle. Their strengths are being spotlighted now, so they feel like they are productive."

The principal said this educational approach is different, but it is exciting. The best part is the optimism he senses among the students.

"Now they have a chance to be productive citizens in our society," Dean said. "They have hope now of living the good life when they graduate.



UA Receives National Science Foundation Grant

The National Science Foundation and The University of Alabama are partnering in an $8 million grant for the Alliance for Physics Excellence Program to help better train high school physics teachers in the state of Alabama.

Physics education in the state of Alabama has been on a steady decline in recent years. J.W. Harrell, associate professor of physics at the University, said only 75 percent of state high schools offer even one physics class for their students, and only 10 percent of physics teachers teaching these classes graduated from college with a major or minor in physics.

“Nationwide, the need for high school physics teachers exceeds all other disciplines,” Harrell said. “Addressing this need is critically important because physics is fundamental to all science and engineering disciplines.”

This grant with allow APEX to better train 88 Alabama high school physics teachers over the next five years. This would account for almost one quarter of all Alabama high school physics teachers. The program will also provide 10 two-year scholarships valued at $16,000 a year to college students currently majoring in physics and interested in teaching high school physics upon graduation.

The University’s role in this program will be to evaluate the it’s effectiveness. Dennis Sunal, a science education professor at the University, will serve as the program’s primary investigator.

“Unlike most programs, APEX looks not only at student knowledge but also the knowledge of the teacher,” Sunal said. “Teachers will be equipped with multiple ways to present physics to their students, and we’ll evaluate if the program worked with standardized tests, observations, and interviews of both students and instructors.”

Another grant was recently awarded to the University that will also help to remedy the physics education situation in the state.

The University was one of four institutions from across the nation to be awarded a $300,000 grant from PhysTEC to recruit more people to teach physics at high schools across the state.

“For the past few decades, fewer and fewer college graduates from across the state have been going into physics education upon graduation,” Sunal said.

PhysTEC is a coalition of more than 250 colleges and universities in the U.S. who support the goal of improving high school physics teaching. The grant will be used to allow a high school teacher to work in the University’s physics department for a year, serving as a mentor for undergraduates interested in becoming physics teachers after graduating.

Also, the PhysTEC grant will provide interested UA undergraduate students the opportunity to serve as “Learning Assistants.” These students will take a one-credit course to introduce them to the principles of teaching high school physics. They will then have the opportunity to apply their teaching by going to area high schools and assisting teachers with classroom activities. There are currently 12 learning assistants participating in the program, though more students are invited to apply and join this paid experience.

The possibilities these grants offer have caused lots of excitement amongst the leaders of the program.

“There has been a significant increase in the number and quality of undergraduate physics majors in the past few years,” Harrell said. “With the APEX and PhysTEC grants, the department now has the opportunity to significantly impact the quality of HS physics teaching in Alabama.”




Community College Scholars Selected to Design Rovers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Forty community college students from across the United States have been selected to travel to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to participate in the 2012 National Community College Aerospace Scholars (CCAS) project. The three-day event Oct. 23-25 will feature a rover-building experience.


The students, representing 18 states, will form fictional companies pursuing Mars exploration. Each team will develop, design, and build a prototype rover, then use their prototypes to navigate a course, collect rocks and water, and return to a home base. The event includes a tour of Marshall and briefings from agency scientists and engineers.


"The CCAS program allows students to take what they have learned in the classroom and augment it with realistic, hands-on experience," said Leland Melvin, associate administrator for education at NASA Headquarters. "They will tackle some of the same challenges faced by NASA scientists and engineers every day. By the end of their experience, they will have developed valuable skills for future high-tech careers."


The program is based on the Texas Aerospace Scholars project, originally created in partnership with NASA and the Texas educational community. NASA Aerospace Scholars programs are designed to encourage students to consider careers in science and engineering and eventually join the nation's technical workforce. Participants in the national project were selected based on completion of interactive web-based assignments throughout the school year.


For a complete list of the student participants, their states and the community colleges they represent, visit: 




UWA hosts early childhood education conference

Area educators are invited to the University of West Alabama’s annual STEM conference on Oct. 5 at Bell Conference Center in Livingston. Sponsored by the Julia S. Tutwiler College of Education, the free conference promotes innovative ideas through several means of learning.


The conference includes sessions in all areas of STEM education, including science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. The goal of STEM education is to create hands-on, interactive classrooms that encourage young children to develop and use scientific processes to explore and better understand their environments.


The morning session will feature speaker Cathy Valentino, who has served as author-in-residence for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company in Boston since 1999. She is the author, inventor, and program designer of the “Invention Convention.”


Valentino is the curriculum advisor and staff development trainer for SMILE (Science and Math Integrated Learning Experiences), a science and math outreach program for disadvantaged and minority students in grades four through twelve, at the University of Rhode Island.


The afternoon session will feature speaker Kathleen Horstmeyer, author of “A Teacher’s Journey of Love, Laughter, and Learning” and past president of the Society of Elementary Presidential Awardees.


Horstmeyer has served the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) as the chairperson of the preschool/elementary committee and as the elementary committee co-chair.


Participants may register online at or contact Esther Howard at or 205-652-3428 for more information.




Math, science teaching in Alabama better than 10 years ago, but still needs improvement, report says

Alabama schools have made strides in teaching math and science over the last decade, according to a new report by business leaders nationwide, known as Change the Equation, or CTEq.

Yet there is still much room for improvement.

“Business leaders in Alabama have sounded an alarm,” the report, called 2012 Vital Signs, states in its summary of the state. “They cannot find the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent they need to stay competitive. Students’ lagging performance in K-12 is a critical reason why.”

The report does credit Alabama, though, for beefing up its math standards as it became one of 44 states adopting the Common Core Standards, which the state is calling the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, this year. Educators have said this involves a new, more common-sense approach to teaching math, and that it assures that students in all of these states are learning the same things.

While Alabama has made progress, too few students are prepared for college or the workforce, according to the report. Eighth-graders here, for example, are much less likely than their peers in other states to engage in hands-on sicence investigations, and most don’t have teachers with an undergraduate major in math.

The state’s report sites Alabama students for improving their math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is given at random schools throughout the country. Alabama scores have increased seven points, from 262 to 269, since 2003. The goal is to reach 299, which is considered proficient.

Officials have credited this progress in part to the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, which is a hands-on approach to teaching those subjects and is now in about half of the state's elementary and middle schools.

The report recommends that Alabama work on three areas in particular: to ease the transition in this subject from high school to college; to spend more money on science, technology and math education, and to improve teacher preparation and support.

State schools Superintendent Tommy Bice said in a news release that some of this will be addressed as Alabama shifts from measuring student and school progress by one standardized test administered in the spring, as it now does under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, to its proposed replacement, Plan 2020. 

Under the plan, schools will be rated based in a more complicated manner, including measuring how much individual students learn over the course of a year. The goal of Plan 2020 is to graduate all students ready for either college or the workforce.

Created in collaboration with the American Institutes for Research, Vital Signs, which was made possible by support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, examines how all 50 states and Washington, D.C., are handling the teaching of the STEM subjects.




Northrop Grumman gives $4,000 to UAH engineering program


HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Northrop Grumman Corp. recently donated $4,000 to the University of Alabama in Huntsville to assist engineering education, the school announced today.


Specifically, the gift was earmarked for the ENGINEER Program (Experience for the Next Generation of Innovators, through Networked Engineering Education and Research). The program is an engineering education and outreach initiative at UAH that seeks to attract more students to the engineering profession while better training those students already studying engineering, according to the school.


In the press release, UAH said the ENGINEER Program reached a total of 600 students last year. The high school portion of ENGINEER, called InSPIRESS (the Innovative Student Project for the Increased Recruitment of Emerging STEM Students) enrolled approximately 440 students from 16 different highs schools in north Alabama.


The undergraduate portion of ENGINEER, called Integrated Product Team (IPT), had approximately 160 students from four different universities.





Toyota USA Foundation Announces $1.3 Million in New Grants
The Toyota USA Foundation today announced more than $1.3 million in new grants to support innovative K-12 math, science, engineering and environmental science education programs, with a focus on programs that serve diverse and underserved communities. These new grants, combined with the more than $3.8 million in multi-year commitments, total to more than $5 million that the Toyota Foundation has disbursed to nonprofit organizations this year.
Toyota USA Foundation grant decisions place a high priority on programs that value diversity, incorporate inter-disciplinary learning and are built around “real-world” classroom applications. In addition, the Foundation focuses on innovative and cost-effective programs that help students and educators develop their abilities.
The new 2012 grant recipients are:  
American Indian Science and Engineering Society, Food for Thought- Feeding Young Minds with STEM Enrichment offers fun, interactive workshops to motivate and excite young students about science.
American University, Lab2Class offers an accelerated training process for midcareer scientists who want to shift into the teaching profession.
California State University Bakersfield Foundation, Families for STEM aims to increase the number of students from diverse backgrounds who are entering and successfully graduating from STEM fields.
Colorado Seminary, University of Denver, Kids Play Math will expand the development, implementation, and teacher training for Kids Play Math, a bilingual, research-based computer game system designed to teach mathematics skills to children.
Fremont Education Foundation, Education, Challenge, Inspire will build on the Foundation’s efforts to provide math and algebra teaching kits for California teachers, as well as calculators and science lab equipment for fourth- through eighth-grade students.
Mills College, Lesson Study will train elementary school teachers through an innovative Japanese teaching strategy to improve mathematics instruction.
Mobile Area Education Foundation, Engaging Youth through Engineering will train STEM educators in southwest Alabama to expand and reform STEM curricula to additional schools.
O’Neill Sea Odyssey, Community Oceanography Program will provide 750 youth and 25 teachers with an ocean field trip, hands-on restoration projects and in-class curriculum to improve student understanding of ocean science and environmental conservation.
For additional information about these and other grants from the Toyota USA Foundation, please visit:
“We are proud to support these organizations and educational institutions, and to help further the important work they are doing to help our country’s young people excel in mathematics, science, engineering and environmental science,” said Patricia Salas Pineda, group vice president of national Philanthropy and the Toyota USA Foundation at Toyota Motor North America. “Toyota is deeply committed to supporting the next generation of America’s leaders in these critical fields, and we look forward to seeing each of these programs – and the students and teachers they serve – make an even bigger impact in the years ahead.”
“This grant from the Toyota USA Foundation provides the opportunity to advance our mission and dedication to high quality STEM education for students in Washington, DC” says Sarah Irvine Belson, Dean of American University’s School of Education, Teaching & Health. “Toyota’s support will help us increase the number of middle school and high school science teachers in diverse communities and encourage more students to pursue science-based careers.”



UAHuntsville continues to push development of STEM education
The University of Alabama in Huntsville has received approval from The University of Alabama Board of Trustees to offer a Master of Science in Integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (MS-ISTEM) program.
The new degree will be offered through the UAHuntsville College of Science, and also received approval by the Alabama Commission of Higher Education.
The MS-ISTEM program was created to advance the STEM subject expertise of in-service secondary school science and mathematics educators. The program begins in the summer and prospective students may now begin the admittance process.
Courses will be offered during the summer semester and on weekends, an ideal format for working educators who want to earn advanced degrees and further their academic achievements.
The MS-ISTEM graduate program is a direct result of science education reform in the 1990s by UAHuntsville President Dr. John Wright.
Wright, who passed away in January, followed the national model for science instruction by creating the Hands-On Activity Science Program (HASP). The program's success was phenomenal and eventually other state institutions developed similar models and Wright's brainchild became known as ALAHASP.
In 2002, UAHuntsville's HASP spawned another state education initiative, the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI). AMSTI is the largest most comprehensive and successful initiative in the nation. More than 350,000 students in Alabama receive instruction by AMSTI certified teachers twice a day in mathematics and science. In 2006, Wright was honored with a Friend of AMSTI Award.
Educators interested in pursuing the MS-ISTEM degree should contact Charlene Bruce in the university's Institute for Science Education) at 256.824.6156.



The Northrop Grumman Foundation has announced the national sponsorship of middle school students and teachers from across the country to attend...


...Space Camp® this summer, from July 29 to Aug. 3, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) in Huntsville, Alabama. This is the fourth year that the foundation has funded Space Camp® sponsorships. "At Northrop Grumman, we strive to inspire and excite student interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines—this is particularly important for middle school students," said Sandra Evers-Manly, president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation. "We are thrilled to be able to provide these students and their teachers the opportunity to attend the Space Camp program to experience firsthand the importance of science and math principles when it comes to space exploration."

This year's sponsored space campers are 16 middle school teachers from nine states and 48 middle school students from 12 states and the District of Columbia, representing 29 schools from across the country. Student campers will experience the ultimate space adventure this summer, participating in activities such as rocket building and launching, experiencing weightlessness in an astronaut-training simulator and simulating space travel preparation. Their science teachers will accompany the students to Huntsville to attend theSpace Academy for Educators, a program to provide teachers the tools to enhance how they present science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts in their classrooms.

The sponsorship is part of Northrop Grumman's K-12 Initiative, which aims to advance the United States' excellence in STEM by encouraging instruction from elementary school through high school. The sponsored students were selected based on their potential to become high achievers in math and science. They all fall within the ages of 12 and 14 and will be in seventh or eighth grade at the time they attend Space Camp®. The sponsored educators must teach either seventh or eighth grade science, and be selected by their school principal or district.




STEM education focus of congressional hearing at Madison's Bob Jones High


HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Huntsville may be ahead of the curve when it comes to science education, but plenty of work remains to ensure that the education system adequately fills an increasingly technology-based workforce.

That was the gist of a congressional hearing held Monday morning [April 30, 2012] at Bob Jones High School to discuss the future of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in the Rocket City and beyond.

The hearing was hosted by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, who chairs the subcommittee on Research and Science Education for the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Brooks was joined by Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee. Lipinski told those present that fewer than 40 percent of college students who start out in a STEM-related field follow through and get a degree in that field.

That leads to a shortage of qualified employees to fill positions in science and technology fields, which are experiencing an increasing demand for workers, Lipinski said.

"We need to do a better job at training our students," Lipinski said.

For ideas on how that should be done, the congressmen turned to a panel of local education and industry leaders, who testified about the status of STEM education in Huntsville. Panelists spoke repeatedly of improved communication and collaboration between education and industry.

Andrew Partynski, chief technology officer for SAIC, told the congressmen that there is a lack of communication about what type of students the industry is seeking.

"We still have a lot to do with the universities to communicate the kind of needs we have," Partynski said.

Dr. Neil Lamb, director of educational outreach for HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, agreed. Lamb said the industry needs students whose book-based learning is supplemented by hands-on experience.

For that, there need to be partnerships between schools and the industry to provide students with internships and other opportunities for experience, Partynski said.

Dr. Camille Wright, director of secondary instruction for Madison City Schools, said her district partners with local universities through initiatives such as dual enrollment and articulated credit. The business community also provides internships and job shadowing for students.

And an advisory committee of business and industry leaders helps guide the district on its curriculum. "They work with us to ensure that our curriculum matches the skill set needed in the industry," Wright said.

Dr. Robert Altenkirch, president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, testified that internships with NASA and other industry leaders help higher education students better understand what they learn on campus.

When Brooks and Lipinski asked how the federal government could better promote scientific entities like HudsonAlpha and SAIC, Lamb of HudsonAlpha talked about preventing other industries from "poaching" STEM graduates.

Wright spoke out against the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which she said has forced school districts to narrow their focus on reading and math -- to the detriment of science education.

"As an unintended consequence, that's where your money will go," Wright said.

Lamb said that the Bush-era legislation inflicted "enormous harm" on the way science is viewed in the country. His comment was met by applause from the small audience.

According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the move away from science is reflected in student performance. That assessment showed that just 34 percent of fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders and 21 percent of 12th-graders in the nation scored at or above proficiency in physical science, life science, Earth science and space.

President Obama has said he is trying to change the focus of students' education, placing on his agenda an $80 million proposal for a new competition designed to support effective STEM teacher preparation. His administration also hopes to create a $60 million fund to help improve math education.

Obama's office announced the initiatives in February. They have been met with skepticism from some GOP leaders who question the price tag on the plans.





New Research Finds Benefits From Alabama STEM Initiative

An ambitious effort to improve STEM education in Alabama has generated academic gains for students, according to a study issued this week by the federal Institute of Education Sciences.

The study involved a randomized control trial to assess the effectiveness of the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative. The program, which was profiled in a 2009 EdWeek story, seeks to provide teachers with intensive professional development, access to quality instructional materials and technology, and in-school supports.

After one year, the effect on math achievement was positive and statistically significant, based on end-of-year scores on standardized tests, according to the new study. That impact amounted to a gain of 2 percentile points, the study says. The researchers helpfully sought to translate this for a general audience (as in reporters like me!) and said the gain was equivalent to 28 days of additional student progress in comparison with students receiving "conventional mathematics instruction." However, the effect on science achievement was not statistically significant after one year.

In reading, meanwhile, the study detected a gain of 2 percentile points for students participating in the STEM initiative.

Although the Alabama program targets students and schools across all grade levels, the study from U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences focuses on the effectiveness in grades 4-8.

An "exploratory investigation" of the two-year effect of the Alabama STEM program found a gain of 4 percentile points—equivalent to an estimated 50 days of additional student progress. In science, the gain was 5 percentile points. (The two-year effect is less reliable, the report says, because of changes to the control group. Or to put it in research-speak, the analyses after two years is "exploratory rather than confirmatory.")

The researchers also explored matters beyond test scores, including changes in classroom practices and teacher knowledge. It found that the STEM program "had a positive and statistically significant effect on classroom practices in mathematics and science after one year." Based on multiple teacher surveys, math teachers reported an average of an extra 50 minutes, every 10 days, in which they used "active learning strategies." For science teachers, the bump was 40 more minutes in comparison with teachers in the control group.

The study also looked at the impact of the initiative on teacher-reported content knowledge and here found no statistical difference in the level of such knowledge.

The Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative, which was described in my colleague Sean Cavanagh's 2009 story as "one of the largest and most ambitious state-run math and science programs in the country," was launched in 2002 and has seen increased participation across the state over time. As of 2009, the report says, it reached about 40 percent of the state's public schools.

Alabama's state schools superintendent, Tommy Bice, hailed the report's findings

"This is a day of affirmation, that what we've felt and known for almost a decade we've now had affirmed," he said, according to the Birmingham News. "Alabama's future is bright as these young minds are challenged to think critically and solve complex problems with no obvious answer—the 21st-century skills business and industry are asking of our graduates."





UAH offering high school STEM teachers summer programs in Germany, Panama

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- The University of Alabama in Huntsville is seeking high school teachers interested in two overseas study programs taking place this summer.

Public and private teachers from the districts in Huntsville, Madison and Madison and Limestone counties are invited to apply for the opportunities, taking place in Germany and Panama.

Both programs are geared toward science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers, said said Ray Garner, director of public affairs for UAH. The application deadline is March 26.

The Space Weather Summer Camp, a four to six-week program being held in Germany from June 25 to Aug. 5, is being cohosted by the German Space Agency. The first two weeks are an optional German language course.

The science course consists of two weeks in Huntsville and two weeks in Germany, Garner said. The course covers theoretical and practical aspects of space weather, basic processes in space plasma physics and the effect of the sun on the near-Earth space environment.

Participants will also visit space weather monitoring sites in Germany and the Space Radiation Analysis Group Facility in Houston, Texas.

The Panama program is a two-week course, from June 3 to July 28, that focuses on climate change, Garner said. Participants will tour the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC) research facilities and learn about Panama culture and history.

Through both programs, appropriately qualified teachers can earn graduate-level college credit. Expenses such as transportation and lodging will be provided, as well as a stipend.

For more information or to apply, visit the Center for Space Plasma & Aeronomic Research's website at for the Germany trip or for the Panama trip.

It's not exactly a "dirty job," but Mike Rowe is helping spearhead a state education and recruiting campaign for the construction industry.


There may appear to be a contradiction for recruiting to an industry that is perhaps the hardest hit by the economic downturn. But, with about a third of skilled tradesmen over the age of 50, "new blood" will be needed when the industry rebounds.


"The need for skilled personnel is a continual problem," said Jim Maynard, who is in project management with Martin & Cobey Construction of Athens. "This will be prevalent in a couple of years when, hopefully, it turns around."


The state construction industry is launching Go Build Alabama and is partnering with Rowe, perhaps the nation's most visible supporter of skilled labor, who will appear in ads and commercials for the campaign.


 Go Build also works with the actor's initiative, which calls attention to the expanding gap in the trades while providing a resource for anyone seeking a career in the industry.


Rowe said the gap is the unintended consequence of society's focus on the college degree and its devaluation of skilled trade jobs such as electricians, carpenters and plumbers.


"We used to tell our kids that learning a trade was a great way to secure a worthwhile future," he said. "We don't tell them that anymore. Today, we tell them if they want to get a really good job they are going to need a four-year degree. We've lumped the skilled trades into the 'alternative education' category and turned the entire field of study into some sort of vocational consolation prize.


"Is it any wonder we have a shortage of qualified tradesmen today?"


Alabama, which is not particularly known for being a trendsetter, is the first state to tackle this issue.


"It's great to see Alabama make the initial step," Maynard said. "It's difficult in keeping the focus (on the trades) in the school systems.


"They've got limited resources but we're starting to see programs."


The Go Build campaign was conceived by the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute, which was created through legislation sponsored this year by Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, and co-sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston. The ACRI is funded by the construction industry.


The Alabama Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, the Alabama Association of General Contractors and the Alabama AFL-CIO lobbied to create the institute to recruit skilled labor. Other organizations also supported the initiative, including the American Subcontractors Association, the Alabama Construction Trade Unions, the Alabama College System, the Alabama Road Builders Association, and the Alabama Construction Users Roundtable.


"Our mission is to recruit a new generation of craftsmen," said ACRI Executive Director Tim Alford. "This is a unique partnership that's not done anywhere in the country."


The campaign will kick off Labor Day, and the date was not chosen by accident.

"We're using Labor Day as a jumping off point because of the obvious reason and the synergy it brings," Alford said. "We want to bring honor back to the tradesmen."


Alford said a goal of the campaign is to let people know about the needs for skilled workers and to "consider this among other options."


Rowe agreed with Alford, who said it was a "coup" to snag the popular TV star.


"There are opportunities in Alabama right now that most people don't even know about in construction," Rowe said. "These opportunities aren't alternatives to viable careers; they are viable careers. ... I've had a front row seat to all different kinds of work, and I'll tell you something - there's nothing more important to our country than skilled labor."


The Go Build campaign will include statewide print, online and television ads referring to the web site (, where people can learn  about skilled trade careers, find information about training programs and more.


ACRI will also be doing an outreach program with high schools through a partnership with the Alabama chapter of SkillsUSA (


"I would like to go down the list alphabetically and work with every state to implement this kind of proactive program," Rowe said. "Look out Alaska."




Mrs. Sherry Key, Director
Career/Technical Education, Alabama Department of Education
PO Box 302101
Montgomery, AL 36107