Southern Union State Community College’s ‘ASCEND’ program taking off locally


By Bradley
For the Opelika

There is a new program in town creating a bit of buzz in our community, as well as many questions. The program is ASCEND, brought to life by Southern Union State Community College. ASCEND’s main premise is “Improving Lives, Growing Business.” The idea is to allow individuals, as well as industry to “move upward” in their community. ASCEND is the match-maker if you need a mental picture – a connecter of hard working, motivated individuals to industry that thrives off well-balanced, productive employees.
There are two common local issues that inspired the program: 1) Industry finding and keeping diligent skilled workers in their facilities. 2) Local individuals getting out of a minimum wage job, to find security and consistent income for their families in a valued position
What is ASCEND? ASCEND is a program that takes an individual and trains them to receive the skills needed for an interview with its industrial partners. Each ASCEND graduate will have preferential hiring for full-time employment among these partners. This translates into an immediate increase in wages and real benefits for each ASCEND graduate.
The program is free, at no cost to the applicant. If the applicant is willing to invest his or her time into bettering themselves, then ASCEND is going to invest in them. The program is set up to meet the needs of the applicant and in their own time frame. It is a flexible program, times are adapted to the applicant, including online training as well as one-on-one coaching and assistance.
What are the operations of the program?
The applicant must accomplish three tasks. 1) Score a 7.5 on the math and reading portion of the TABE (test for adult basic education) 2) Score a 3 in all three parts of the industry recognized assessment known as “WorkKeys.” 3) Complete a hybrid version (class and online) of the state recognized program known as “Ready to Work.”
The program takes as much time as the applicant needs. One applicant may take five weeks, as another applicant may take nine. The program is fit for working people, family people and those searching for a sustainable job.
What about the industry partners? ASCEND has partnered with leading industries in Lee County. When an ASCEND candidate meets their three criteria, it will then be a preferential hiring in the industry. They will be prepared and ready for an interview process, and to work in their skilled area. Upon the hire, the goal is full-time employment with benefits, and a sustainable job with good pay.
Who are the
industry partners?
The current list of employers and local industry leaders committed to ASCEND are Baxter, Pharmavite, Briggs and Stratton, RAPA, Flowers Bakery, Rexnord and Aptar.
They have each committed to preferentially hire candidates directly from ASCEND.
These industries have been chosen for their integrity, work ethics and value they place on the individual.
They have been selected and interviewed. Only the absolute best industries in our community are part of the ASCEND program.
Who is ASCEND for?
ASCEND is for the hundreds of people in our community that, for a variety of reasons, are underemployed, poorly compensated and working without the security provided with good medical and dental benefits. Many of these people live paycheck to paycheck and their family physician is the hospital emergency room. An ASCEND candidate may have just graduated high school and is not yet ready for college but they are ready to work. A candidate may currently have two jobs, to put food on their table and pay bills. A candidate may be seeking a change in their work environment; they want better pay, consistent work and benefits. Perhaps a candidate feels undervalued, they want leadership and to feel valued in their work. There are many types of people ASCEND can assist.
ASCEND is a bridge, connecting those driven to work and provide security to their family to the leading industries in our community. It is a true win for all involved. A new, excellent job for the candidate and a new, excellent employee for the industry.
So who are the people behind ASCEND?
They are teachers, leaders, engineers of good. It is many people with a common goal to help individuals find true value and life in good work. This team is strong and wise and they are working daily to place this program into the hands of those who need it. They are visionaries and workers themselves. They see value in all people and in building a better community for everyone.
Interested parties can register for the ASCEND program online at


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