At Wenonah High School on February 23, members of the Birmingham City Council announced the launch of a new program called “Birmingham Careers” which, in partnership with UAB and participating local companies, will provide 5,000 jobs for Birmingham high school students.
“What we’re doing with Birmingham Careers is just making sure that our young people are being connected to the opportunities that exist in our community already and making sure that we are doing everything we can to make those jobs available and attainable to them right now,” said Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin. “This is not something that they have to go and spend two or four years learning; it’s something that they already have available to them. It’s right now in their hands. They just need to learn how to translate that into self-betterment, and that’s exactly what we want to do.”
Austin said that the jobs offered through Birmingham Careers would not require any specialized training but would help prepare students for future careers by familiarizing them with the kinds of technology employed by modern businesses.
“There are thousands of jobs that are available right now to individuals that have some basic training and understanding of technology,” he said “These young adults who are graduating from high school this year — if they know how to use their cell phones, if they know how to use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, or any of those others — if they are able to get those things, then these young people are all qualified for these jobs that are available.
“The jobs of the future are all based around technology. All of them, whether it’s mechanical jobs, whatever types of jobs, they’re all based around technology. So what we want to do is make sure that our young people have the basic tools that they need in order to qualify for these jobs of the future. Now these jobs of the future are here today and these young people can earn while they learn.”
In addition to placing students in positions with companies like Trane and Alabama Power, the program will also partner with UAB and Innovation Depot’s preexisting Innovate Birmingham program to provide interested students with computer coding training to help them land jobs after graduation.
Austin said that the Innovate Birmingham program, which began to educate its first class of students in early February, will put participating Birmingham school students “on a whole other platform for jobs” by teaching them skills vital to a variety of industries.
Austin said that he hopes the program helps to reduce crime in Birmingham as well as give students valuable job experience and extra income. “The reason why we have so much crime and our crime is on the rise is because we have a generation of young people that feel that there is no hope, and… the only way that they feel that they can make money is through resorting to crime,” he argued. “We want a generation of young people to understand that there is hope for the future and there is hope for their future. And that hope lies in the abilities that they already have. They just need to understand how to translate those skills that they already have into jobs and generate revenue for their families.
“It’s the solution that we know will reduce crime. And not only will it reduce crime, it will set people to work and strengthen our community by giving young people a chance and opportunity,” Austin continued. “I don’t believe in handouts. I believe in giving a hand up… These young people want to help themselves. They don’t want people to take care of them, and if you’re 18 and hopeful, you want to take of yourself. This is an opportunity to do just that.”