Best practices: Hoover’s RC3 responds to shifting workforce needs

Students interested in attending the Riverchase Career Connection Center (RC3) apply and interview to enter as they would if job searching.

Students interested in attending the Riverchase Career Connection Center (RC3) apply and interview to enter as they would if job searching.

The workforce is changing, and Hoover City Schools is responding.

That’s according to Ron Dodson, the director of Hoover’s new Riverchase Career Connection Center (RC3), which is set to open its doors this August to around 600 or 700 high school students eager to learn about career and college readiness.

RC3 is geared towards students who have a particular interest in skilled trades and professional career fields taught at RC3 – building science, cyber innovation, culinary arts and hospitality, fire and emergency services, and health science.

“We want kids to have a choice,” Dodson said.

Interested students apply and interview to enter RC3 as they would if job searching, and students are treated as employees while on campus, working either the morning shift or the afternoon shift, clocking in and out each day and learning soft skills to get and keep good-paying jobs. Students will still be connected to their home campuses – they will eat lunch there each day and still be able to participate in extracurricular activities – but they will also feel like they have a job to go to daily. RC3 is located at the former Riverchase Middle School on Willow Oak Drive in Hoover.

“The reality is one in three jobs require a college degree,” Dodson said. “The cost of college and getting a degree keeps going up, and the likelihood of a person receiving a degree and monetarily benefiting from it is going down. There are great paying jobs that don’t require a college degree and are starving for workers. We’ve been trying to find ways to respond to that – it’s our place as a school system to respond, and this became the opportunity.”

Don’t get him wrong, Dodson said – college still matters. That’s why, in addition to becoming a hub for career readiness, students will also prepare to be college ready, completing English and mathematics credits identical to those offered at Hoover and Spain Park. The difference is an emphasis on practical applications within each student’s area of career interest.

“Even if students don’t go to college, we want them to have literacy and numeracy skills to get into college,” Dodson said. “That will make them leaders.”

Programs for automotive technology, biotechnology, heavy equipment, landscaping and mechatronics could be added as RC3 expands, and RC3 is talking to Homewood City Schools and Pelham City Schools about future partnerships.

“There is room to grow here,” Dodson said. “This is just the start, not the finished product.”

Though its opening is still months away, Dodson is eagerly anticipating students’ arrival this fall.

“I can’t wait to see the kids in here,” he said. “I think people who find their passion in life and are able to do what they’re passionate about and make a living from it are happy people. Kids finding and connecting to something that is going to change their life in a good way – I think that’s a big part of growing up and becoming who we are. I’m excited about the possibilities.”