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AlabamaWorks marks latest evolution in state’s workforce development

Officials unveil AlabamaWorks at Lawson State Community College. (David Macon, Alabama NewsCenter)

By Michael Tomberlin

Alabama NewsCenter

Officials unveil AlabamaWorks at Lawson State Community College. (David Macon, Alabama NewsCenter)
Officials unveil AlabamaWorks at Lawson State Community College. (David Macon, Alabama NewsCenter)

The forces behind a years-long effort to align the state’s education and worker training efforts to meet the needs of business and industry last week unveiled AlabamaWorks, a new initiative they say will accomplish those goals.

AlabamaWorks is the latest offering spearheaded by the Alabama Workforce Council, which Gov. Robert Bentley established three years ago to connect the various education and workforce training programs in the state to ensure students and graduates have the skills employers are seeking.

“This is about connecting the jobs with the skills necessary to make a difference in the lives of the citizens of the state of Alabama,” said Zeke Smith, executive vice president of Alabama Power and chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council. “This is about growing Alabama. This is about making Alabama a better place.”

AlabamaWorks will be the new brand of a unified state workforce system that brings together components of the K-12 and two-year college systems, state workforce training and placement services, and industry. Officials unveiled the new initiative at Lawson State Community College in Bessemer.

Through a new AlabamaWorks website, employers, job seekers and students can quickly connect to opportunities from training to career counseling and other resources.

AlabamaWorks will be rolled out to each of the state’s seven newly restructured Regional Workforce Councils in 2017.

“We didn’t want to settle for a mere touch-up. We called for a new identity, a new brand – recognizable, descriptive and effective,” said George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama and vice chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council. “And we needed everyone involved in workforce development – state agencies, education and the business sector – all pulling together in the same direction.”

Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Department of Commerce and executive director of Alabama Industrial Development and Training (AIDT), said AlabamaWorks has to be tied to the seven local Regional Workforce Councils and local Alabama Career Centers because they have their finger on the pulse of what local industry needs.

“Our system is driven by local businesses and will therefore be responsive to the current and future needs of businesses in Alabama,” he said. “Each Regional Workforce Council will be able to focus on the business sectors within its geographical area.”

“Today is about a lot more than a new brand and new logo,” he said. “It’s about taking Alabama to the national forefront of workforce development so that every person in Alabama who wants to find a job can, and so that every employer that comes to Alabama will be able to hire the skilled workers it needs. We truly believe that we are building a system that will soon become a national model.”

Jeff Lynn, senior executive director of workforce and economic development for the Alabama Community College System agreed that AlabamaWorks will set the state apart from others when it comes to selling the state to new industry.

“The real game-changer for AlabamaWorks is the unified nature of education resources, workforce training programs and the private sector,” Lynn said. “We will be a national leader in fully integrating education and training programs to match the high-wage, high-demand jobs available in today’s and tomorrow’s economy.”

Alabama was already a leader in workforce training. Fitzgerald Washington, secretary of the Alabama Department of Labor, said AlabamaWorks will help it stay there.

“We are moving a workforce system that was already good to one that is more cohesive, focused and better meets the needs of employers and residents,” Washington said. “Our career center services are available to both job seekers and employers, and are completely free of charge. We have a high success rate in matching job seekers with employers, and it’s our hope that even more Alabamians will take advantage of these great services.”

Smith said the Alabama Workforce Council has been able to accomplish what it has thanks to the support of the governor and the Legislature.

“It would not be possible without the governor, who made it a priority in his administration to focus on workforce development,” Smith said. “Also, it would not be possible today without the overwhelming support of the legislative leadership all across this state that has ensured that we focus and pay attention to worker training.”