The Skilled Trades of West Alabama held a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday to unveil their new facility where they will offer apprenticeship programs to those looking to expand their knowledge base and advance in their trades.

The new building, which is on James I. Harrison Parkway in the former home of the Tuscaloosa Center for Technology, is the result of a partnership between Premier Service Company, West Alabama Works and the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship.

"We set up an apprenticeship program that will allow people that are already working in the trades -- either electrical HVAC, alarms or plumbing -- to come here at night and get the education that they need by studying in their trade," said Mark White, Program Director of the Skilled Trades of West Alabama Apprenticeship Program.

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White said that the students will shadow a journeyman skilled worker in their specific field during the day and then take classes at night. The goal is to help students pass the state's licensing exams, which will help the students get better-paying jobs within their trade.

"We recognized some time ago, there were a lot of vacancies in the trades that so much emphasis were being put on the college education that the trades were lacking," White said. "The way that Alabama is growing, there was a huge shortage in the trades. So, we saw that opportunity we began to try to put our heads together on how could we come up with a program that would get those guys the training that they need to advance in their career."

The center will house a variety of different high-demand trades such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, alarm and sheet medal fabrication.

Donny Jones, Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama COO and West Alabama Works Executive Director, said that the apprenticeship program is one-of-a-kind as the students already have full-time jobs in their trade. The program is there to help those workers develop skills that will be needed for higher-paying jobs.

"That's the thing about the [apprenticeship program] is that this will increase the pool [of] trained employees," said Gary Phillips, President of Premier Service Company. "It will help us all, every contractor, not just mine. It'll help all contractors have better skilled employees on the job."

Classes for the apprenticeship program will begin on Sept. 14. To find out more information or to register, check out the Skilled Trades of West Alabama website here.

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