J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College, a student-centered two-year public institution, offers flexible and affordable university-transfer and technical degrees, certificates, adult and continuing education, and customized workforce training to fulfill the diverse needs of the community.
Approved by the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees - July 22, 2015
J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College is the first and only institution of its kind in Alabama. It’s an institution where students can enhance their futures through comprehensive academic and technical training programs.
The Beginnings of a Rich History
As with so many educational institutions, within Drake State’s history lies many of its strengths.
In 1961, Governor George Wallace founded a group of state, two-year technical institutions to support the technical/vocational career education needs of African Americans. Huntsville State Vocational Technical School was one of these schools. Its original campus covered 30 acres of land deeded by Alabama A & M University to the Alabama Board of Education, and the new college opened its doors in 1962 with 27 students enrolled in four programs – auto mechanics, cosmetology, electronics, and masonry.
In 1966, the school changed its name to J. F. Drake State Technical Trade School in honor of the late Joseph Fanning Drake, long-time president of Alabama A&M University. The Alabama State Board of Education granted Drake State technical college status in 1973 and adjusted its name to J. F. Drake State Technical College, allowing the school to offer the Associate in Applied Technology Degree (AAT).
The Modern Era
After more than 30 years, Drake State established university articulation agreements with several area schools, expanding options for its students. The new agreements with Alabama A&M University, Oakwood University, Athens State University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville make it possible for Drake State graduates with technical associate degrees in computer information systems, electrical engineering technology, and business programs to transfer seamlessly to these universities – a program benefitting all institutions involved.
Another modern educational enhancement involved Drake State’s dedication to the community. In 2010, the college spearheaded a move into downtown Huntsville by offering classes in the historic Times Building on Holmes Avenue. This had a positive impact not only on the school’s enrollment, but also on the city’s downtown development – adding students to the downtown business landscape to stimulate rejuvenation of the urban area.
In January 2012, Drake State began its membership with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). This landmark achievement ensured transferability of general education courses and streamlined student transitions from two-year degrees into university programs anywhere in the United States – a tremendous enhancement for the school and its students.
The final step in establishing the school’s identity came in July of 2013 when the college officially became J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College. Its name accurately depicts its standing as both a comprehensive community college and a core-driven technical college – the best of both worlds.
Impacting the Community
With Huntsville’s unique blend of space and defense industries, biotechnology, healthcare and high-tech manufacturing, the community has high expectations for local educational institutions. Drake State certainly rises to the challenge of preparing highly skilled workers for the north Alabama workforce – accomplishing it with a unique blend of academics and technical training programs and grant funded initiatives.
Throughout its history, the college has trained thousands of technicians in a wide variety of industries. Since the vast majority of graduates stay in the area, the local investment in education continues to pay dividends in the subsequent contribution to local economic growth.
What’s more – many of Drake State’s graduates have gone on to start their own businesses, including salons, machine shops, welding shops, IT services, heating and air conditioning businesses, and many others. Small businesses and skilled entrepreneurs wield a strong influence on economic development in the region, and Drake State graduates contribute steadily to that business growth.
The Way of the Future
Since the first auto mechanics, cosmetology, electronics, and masonry classes in 1962, Drake State has kept pace with the high-tech needs of both its students and the business community. Its solid commitment to vocational, technical, and industrial training allows the college to teach and develops top-tier technical skills obtained through state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.
There are many examples of Drake State keeping pace with advanced technology – a satellite tracking station for capturing and forwarding micro-sized satellite telemetry in partnership with NASA, an amateur radio station for the wireless communications curriculum that serves as a FEMA relay station during local weather watch activities, and 3-D engineering for rapid prototyping and 3-D printing.
All of these specialized study opportunities add even more for students. In addition, Drake State has the only culinary arts program in the Tennessee Valley, multiple curriculum options in computer and information technology, and pioneering work in training new employees for jobs in renewable energy. These programs and more keep this institution at the forefront of anticipating workforce demands of the future and training employees to fill those needs.
Ready. Set. Go!
With a strong and distinctive emphasis on hands-on learning, Drake State provides the benefit of combining traditional academics with increased lab study to deliver immediate functionality in the workplace. Students also have the added advantage of opportunities in emerging research and entrepreneurial pursuits with training not typically offered at other two-year institutions – all creating a unique atmosphere for practical job preparation.
J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College is committed to having its students ready with the right knowledge, set with the right training and skills, and able to go into the workforce immediately – a winning formula for the students, the community, and the economy.