Ayah McCants dreams of being an engineer.
Living in Huntsville, Alabama, a city defined by research, technology, space exploration, and automotive manufacturing, she probably won’t have to go far to achieve that dream.
That’s not only because of the area’s major employers. It’s because McCants is uniquely qualified, thanks to specialized training she received from KTECH.
KTECH is part of Lee Marshall’s Kids to Love nonprofit. Launched in 2016 to provide workforce training to help foster care students as they move out of the system, KTECH has expanded its reach – serving veterans, homeless adults and others – all with the goal of training people for, and connecting them with, a brighter future. KTECH has relationships with industry leaders, giving students professional connections as they complete the 16-week program.
“Education is at the forefront of everything we do at Kids to Love and KTECH,” said Marshall, a popular local news anchor who left the broadcast industry to focus on serving Huntsville in new ways. “It is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty for those in foster care and out. Thanks to the generosity of several donors who helped us get started, we are able to make an impact on the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Regions Bank is among program supporters.
“We’re focused on opportunities that help level the playing field and bring success within reach for more people,” said Sean Kelly, Huntsville Market Executive for Regions. “Over the long term, as our economy recovers from COVID-19 and as more companies discover the positive workforce climate we have in Huntsville, KTECH helps serve as an economic development driver. Lee and her team connect people with skills that match the needs of employers. There’s a tremendous benefit, first for the individual, and then also for the community, when more people have access to well-paying jobs.”
Regions provides funding for KTECH operations. In addition, Regions is working on a community partnership for bank associates to teach financial education courses as part of KTECH’s Life Lab, which helps students understand the importance of character, knowledge, wisdom and integrity in the workplace.
Through its training programs, students also learn about mechatronics, a mix of training for mechanical, electronic and computer-based skills. The training focuses on safety, quality, manufacturing processes and maintenance, all of which are in high demand.
Ayah McCants found KTECH thanks to her math teacher at Huntsville Christian Academy. McCants had been through a lot – including being homeless for a brief period – but she loved math and wanted to figure out how to use her love of numbers to find a job.
KTECH has built relationships not only with Huntsville Christian Academy, but also Huntsville City and Madison County Schools to connect students like McCants with additional support, training and development.
“In today’s new world, our graduates are highly skilled and employable after a few short courses,” said Dorothy Havens, Workforce Development Director at KTECH.
While students like McCants are pursuing college degrees, they can also benefit from well-paying jobs as they continue their studies, thanks to skills developed so far.
“They know what so many people are beginning to understand,” Havens said. “You can make a lot of money with these skills, be successful in a career you love and avoid the student loan debt that a traditional college path brings.”
For example, KTECH offers students the opportunity to earn the Siemens Certified Mechatronics System Assistant designation, a specialty certification that means students have greater understanding and knowledge of programmable logic control, hydraulics, electronics and more. For those hiring in advanced manufacturing, this Siemens certification on a resume helps applicants stand out.
Further guidance supplements professional training. It’s one of the reasons Regions will bring more financial education to the program.
“The additional things I learned at KTECH like budgeting and interview skills helped me a lot,” McCants said. “It is those things and others like it that can hold a person back, but KTECH gave me a better perspective on life and helped me be who I am now.”
Workforce development is one of Regions’ key priorities for community engagement. In 2019, the bank organized a summit for leaders from Huntsville’s business, government, nonprofit and education communities to share current tactics, envision future strategies and brainstorm on ways to deepen collaboration. Staff from KTECH and Kids to Love were among those at the table.
“Regions Bank is a vital part of our support, and we are thankful Regions is right beside us helping with our mission,” Marshall said. “Because of the bank’s foundational support, we’ve been able to show success in what we are doing and how we are doing it.”
McCants recognizes the value in the job she has. She sees growth potential and is learning something new every day. She’s continuing her education at Calhoun Community College before transferring to the University of Alabama at Huntsville to complete her engineering degree.
“I make more money at my job than I would working in fast food, and, I’m learning about engineering, how things are being manufactured, and how systems work together,” she said. “The experience at KTECH is helping me plan for the future.”
McCants’ story is like many others who have gone through the program. No matter the background and no matter the challenges, KTECH shows its success through each student who completes the program. To date, the organization has a 100% completion rate.
“KTECH and Kids to Love provide great hope,” Kelly said. “Regions Bank will continue to rally around organizations that empower, uplift and support the people of our community.”
For more information on KTECH, visit the program’s website here.
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