By Erica Thomas, managing editor
CENTER POINT — It’s not all about making the grade at Center Point High School. Principal Van Phillips is focusing on grades, but he also wants students to get real-life experiences and he wants to help them prepare for the real world.
Center Point students have opportunities in college career readiness, meaning they can graduate high school with unique opportunities.
Several companies along Highway 79 and in downtown Birmingham participate with the school in the state’s Ready-to-Work program. The soft skills program prepares students for the workplace in several areas.
Principal Van Phillips said the need for skilled workers influenced the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations to act.
“Because industry was telling the state of Alabama that they didn’t have the force and the people with the necessary skills to come in at entry-level positions and to move up,” said Phillips. “So the Ready-to-Work program was created.”
At no cost to the student, they are taken to Autocar, Altec, Camtech or Thompson Tractor, and trained into an entry-level position.
“So our students are going through job training, OSHA training, certification,” said Phillips. “They will leave high school with all of that.”
Phillips said the program is less focused on the student’s ACT score and more focused on life skills.
“They want them to come work on time, be able to get along with co-workers and supervisors and to show a willing attitude to improve,” said Phillips. “None of them have said, ‘We need someone with a 4.0 grade point average.’ They said, ‘We need people to come work to keep our assembly line rolling!’”
The school chooses 25 students each semester for the program based on teacher recommendations and parent requests. The 2019-2020 school year was the first year Center Point has participated in the program.
“Once we get this thing rolling, this is going to be a godsend for Center Point,” said Phillips.
The school also has a vibrant co-op program and serves as a Microsoft school. Some students participating in certain programs can leave school licensed into their job market. Other areas of opportunity include cosmetology, IT, cybersecurity, family & consumer science and entrepreneurship.
The IT program is known for its success in the Alabama SkillsUSA State Competition. For five years straight, a team from the school has received a gold medal in Internetworking.