(October 2018) East AlabamaWorks (EAW) is a not-for-profit organization that represents the state’s Alabama Workforce Council in Region 2 (Calhoun, Cherokee, Clay, Cleburne, Etowah, Randolph, and Talladega counties).
The mission of East AlabamaWorks is to promote workforce development by working directly with business and industry to identify their workforce needs and to communicate those needs to the community, educators, training providers, and local leaders.
EAW also oversees Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding for Region 2.
The organization receives its funding from the Alabama Department of Commerce through Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT). The Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama is the fiscal sponsor for East AlabamaWorks, and provides office space and support in addition to the fiscal sponsorship. EAW is governed by a 15-member volunteer board of directors with all seven regional counties represented on the board. 87% of the EAW board members are directly affiliated with local business and industry.
Workforce development has taken center-stage in Alabama as companies are suffering from what has become known as the “workforce gap”. We have reached a point in the country, and in the state, where good jobs have outpaced the number of well-trained workers in our workforce. Many jobs in manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and transportation are going unfilled because companies can’t find the skilled labor they need. 18-wheelers loaded with consumer goods are sitting in warehouses because there aren’t enough CDL drivers to deliver them. Local commercial construction companies are turning down millions of dollars’ worth of work because they don’t have enough workers to build the buildings. These are just a couple of examples of the stories we hear every day.
In support of its workforce development mission, East AlabamaWorks is involved in a large number of events and special projects throughout Region 2. The most well-known and visible event is the annual Worlds of Work expo held in March at the Oxford Civic Center. Business and Industry from a wide variety of workforce sectors set up special displays that allow students to have a hands-on learning experience about jobs and careers that are available in Region 2. In 2018, 100% of Eighth Graders and 70% of High School Juniors in Region 2 attended the event. The 2018 Worlds of Work served nearly 8,000 students from 92 schools over two days, featured 91 businesses, and required more than 800 volunteers. The 2019 Worlds of Work is set for March 12, 13, & 14 and will, again, be held at the Oxford Civic Center.
Another big project for East AlabamaWorks is our Educator Workforce Academy. East AlabamaWorks, along with a few select partners, works directly with school systems throughout Region 2 to take administrators, counselors, and teachers on local industry tours. The purpose of the tours is to help local educators understand the role, and workforce needs. of business and industry in our communities. In just the last four months, we have taken more than 250 educators in Calhoun County alone on these industry tours. By the end of the school year more than 500 educators from Region 2 will have participated in an EAW educator program. The goal is for the teachers to take what they learn on the tours back into the classroom where they can have a positive impact on students, and help them make better informed decisions about their future plans to either continue their education or take skills training classes with the goal of entering the workforce. Additional Educator Workforce Academies are currently being planned and implemented with systems throughout Region 2.
An extension of the Educators Workforce Academy includes giving students a better understanding of their educational and workforce options by getting them involved in workforce tours as well. Plans are already in place to have a special workforce industry tour day with 11th and 12th grade members of the Boys and Girls Club of Gadsden. The November event will take the kids into a variety of industries around Gadsden, and will include a special visit to Gadsden State Community College for a tour of their skilled trade class offerings. The students will also learn about financial aid, WIOA programs that may provide them with free education options, and about the all-important soft skills needed for successful employment. Similar programs are in the works with other organizations that serve underprivileged teens and young adults throughout Region 2.
EAW is also currently working with the Alabama Career Centers in Anniston, Gadsden, and Talladega to organize and present a Regional Hiring Fair. The hiring fair is set for Thursday, November 1 and will be held at the Oxford Civic Center. Several dozen companies (who have more than 1500 combined job openings) will be at the Oxford Civic Center to recruit, interview, and hire new employees – on the spot. The hiring fair is a free service for employers and potential employees.
Having identified a severe shortage of workers in the skilled construction trades, EAW is working with Associated General Contractors of Alabama and the Construction Education Foundation of Alabama to provide free construction trades training for Region 2. The initial funding for the training is provided through a grant from the Alabama Craft Training Board. That program will launch after the first of the year.
We have also identified a great need in Region 2 for skilled welders. In response to that need, EAW is in the process of securing a mobile welding training unit through AIDT, with the intention of offering special welding classes for citizens who wish to gain welding skills in their efforts to improve their job situation.
The desire is for these initial training offerings by EAW to grow into a full-scale community training academy that offers training in a variety of skilled labor sectors.
These are just a few of the projects currently underway with East AlabamaWorks. EAW’s two staff members – Executive Director, Lisa Morales and Workforce Program Manager, Carl Brady – meet daily with members of the local business and industry community to understand what needs exist, and to figure out how the region can meet those needs. They also conduct Quarterly Workforce Council Meetings, at locations throughout the region, so that anyone in the community who is interested in workforce development can participate in the conversation. Special “Industry Sector” meetings are also held regularly so that business and industry leaders can work together in addressing their common needs and concerns.
For more information on East AlabamaWorks you can visit www.eastalabamaworks.com, or contact Lisa Morales (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Carl Brady (email@example.com). Contact by phone at 256.231.6160 ext 19.