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State visitors tour TigerLaunch

Special guests toured Sonoco Reels and Plugs and Cerrowire recently to learn more about Hartselle High School’s flagship workforce development program, TigerLaunch.

In its fourth year, TigerLaunch is a career readiness program that prepares students for careers after graduation. The program partners with local industries to provide students with paid experience. It has grown from a small space behind the junior high school to an entire facility on John D. Long Drive, staffed solely by high school students.

Nick Moore, who represents the office of Gov. Kay Ivey as education and workforce policy advisor and as director of the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation, and Tim McCartney, who serves as the chairman of the board of the Alabama Workforce Council, along with assistant state Superintendent Jimmy Hull and visitors from Marshall County, toured TigerLaunch. Representatives from Guntersville City Schools and industries are planning their own version of a workforce development program modeled after TigerLaunch, as well.

“We want to get the workforce programs out across the state and get these kids interested in jobs after school,” McCartney said. “They need to understand there are jobs out there without having to go to a four-year school; we’re not knocking the four-year school, but there are options.”

Jeff Hyche heads up the program, which was first modeled after the 12forLife program of Florence City Schools, which was also a part of the tour May 25.

“We kind of mimicked what they did, and they were very helpful,” Hyche said. Speaking of local industries, and the benefit TigerLaunch has been to both the companies themselves and the economy, Hyche said the program focused more on the career readiness aspect than 12forLife originally did.

It only continues to grow now: Hyche said he has more jobs than he has students.

“These companies have really understood and bought into our program,” he said. “We would not have been successful without their vision and without their commitment.”

Hyche said it took everyone sitting down to the table to communicate.

“They need skilled workers; we have students, and we have programs with Calhoun Community College that have been super to work with,” he said.

Hyche said TigerLaunch is offered regionally.

“We don’t think about school zones. It’s open to southern Morgan County, and we have had some Cullman County students,” he said. “There are other industries that have heard what we have going on and who want in on it, and I can’t bring them all in yet.”

Between the two plants, when fully staffed, TigerLaunch is made up of 64 young people.

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