West Alabama Works Really Works
West Alabama Works (WOW) is the region’s workforce development organization, housed within the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama since 2014. It was named the Top Workforce Council in Alabama in 2019 by Governor Kay Ivey. West Alabama Works partners with business and industry, schools, nonprofit organizations and service providers in a nine-county region to put West Alabamians to work.
The goal of the program is to recruit, train and empower a highly skilled workforce driven by business and industry needs.Chamber Chief Operating Officer and West Alabama Works Executive Director Donny Jones says they are, "...attempting to make sure all of our citizens have a livable wage to sustain their families."
Chamber President and CEO Jim Page is, ".Really, really proud of the work done by the chamber team in managing this process." The chamber team has become a state leader in the work force program and Jones has become a state and national leader on work force issues according to Page.
With the economy in upheaval since the corona virus began, West Alabama Works may be more important that ever. Questions persist as to whether continuation of the pandemic will prompt older employees who are most susceptible to contracting the virus, to retire, That would leave holes to fill in some companies.
"There is a lot going on with West Alabama Works." Jones told business leaders, government officials, nonprofit executives, human resources professionals, social services representatives. "Over the last several months during this COVID crisis the chamber and West Alabama Works have even more worked together during. So we are really helping every business in our community, whether you are a chamber member or not."
Jones identifies everything West Alabama Works does is to support area businesses and it is industry driven.
West Alabama Works has had a major impact on the nine county area's economy. Since 2017 the program has received almost $17 million in federal dollars to support training and education.
The program's superlatives are impressive:
- 383 industry recognized apprentices have been enrolled in 24 programs since 2017 with $2.5 million in on the job training.
- 100% of all the public high schools and most of the private schools participate in the program. 16,993 people have been served through the state-of-the-art job and training portal , Career Connect. More than 300 industries are engaged in West Alabama Works.
- An 18% increase in career technical education enrollment since WOW began.
- The program is the first award winning prisoner re-entry program. (Lack of job skills is the number one reason for recidivism for prisoners when they leave confinement.)
The programs process is centered around five clusters: automotive, manufacturing, healthcare, construction and professional services. Jones says what attracts companies to the clusters is WOW's partnerships with K-12, higher educations, non-profits and other service providers.
Financial resources are focused at dislocated workers, at-risk individuals and initiatives to prepare students for the future workforce.
Some of the issues WOW must deal with is a state with a 20% poverty rate, 479,000 adults without high school credentials and 32,500 Alabama citizens incarcerated. This comes as a 23,600 worker shortfall is expected in the region by 2030..
One of the things Jones has been working hard is finding work for people who want to find jobs as COVID 19 makes life difficult. You can dial 205-448-1573 and type in 'Job Now' for information on temporary, part-time or full-time employment.