State’s workforce development system designed to assist displaced workers

MONTGOMERY, AL., (WSFA) -- Since January, more than 50 Alabama businesses have downsized or closed, affecting more than 8,000 workers. The state's unemployment rate has inched up to almost 6 percent after starting the year with a 3.7 percent unemployment rate.

"It's never good news when a company announces either a closing or a layoff," said Dr. Matthew Hughes, director of the Governor's Office of Workforce Development (GOWD). "But we have a coordinated workforce training system led by the multi-agency State Workforce Planning Council that is able to help both employees and employers.

"Moreover," Hughes said, "our state is in an enviable position because there are a number of employers across the state seeking qualified workers, especially in the aviation, maritime and healthcare industries as well as in advanced manufacturing." Hughes cited the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) study which will bring thousands of jobs to Alabama within the next couple of years. Technicians and engineers will be in great demand, Hughes noted, due to defense-related contracts.

Alabama Industrial Development Training, a member of the Alabama Community College System(ACCS) which works hand-in-glove with new industry to recruit and train employees, is looking to fill several thousands of jobs as well.

Alabama Technology Network, another member of ACCS, can help existing businesses fare better in tight economic times by providing employee training that can make them more productive and skilled in "lean" manufacturing, among other programs.

"As businesses experience layoffs, we want to make sure that displaced workers are aware of the job opportunities and employment trends in Alabama," Hughes said. "There are services available at the more than 30 one-stop career centers across the state and education and training provided by the Alabama Community College System."

ACCS Chancellor Bradley Byrne, who chairs the State Workforce Planning Council, said that Alabama's workforce training system will help lead the state out of bad economic times by offering a wide range of training and educational services to employees seeking to improve their skills or qualify for a new career. "All of our state agencies with workforce development services have come together to ensure that no one falls through the cracks and that we operate efficiently and effectively on both state and local levels."

Byrne pointed out that community colleges are conveniently located throughout the state and offer a wide variety of training opportunities aligned to meet industry needs. "Workers who have lost their jobs because of the economic crisis may already possess skills that could easily transfer into another field and our two-year colleges offer many programs and short-term courses that can provide that extra training. Many of the high-demand, high-wage, and high-technology jobs require only an associate's degree or short-term certification," Byrne said. "Two-year colleges provide the lion's share of nurses and allied health professionals in Alabama."

Byrne added that community college tuition is half that of four-year institutions and has not been increased in four years. "We are committed to making education accessible to as many people as possible by keeping tuition low and offering more need-based scholarships." Starting with the fall 2009 semester, all Alabama community colleges are required to offer a third of their scholarships as need-based.

Financial assistance is available to eligible persons who wish to re-train in targeted high-demand industries through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Pell grants, or a 50 percent tuition waiver, depending on the availability of funds.

As soon as a company notifies the state of a pending employee layoff, members of GOWD's rapid response unit contact the company to begin setting up meetings to inform those affected of the services available, including opportunities for re-employment and re-training. The front door to information and assistance for these services are the Alabama Career Centers.

"Career centers are designed to be a 'one-stop' agency where a citizen can be assessed for employability, referred to a job, directed to training options, receive information about other services, plus file for unemployment benefits," said Hughes.

He emphasized that career center services are for anyone wishing to explore new careers or seek training and other job-related assistance.

Although the nation's economic downturn is predicted to continue well into next year, both Hughes and Byrne are looking to the future.

"We have taken a close look at occupational needs and trends by region so we can better utilize our training dollars," Byrne emphasized. "Community colleges are partnering with the leadership in their respective regions so that the programs they offer align with current and future business and industry needs."

Alabama Career Center System Locations  

Center                                       County                            City                         Phone Number

Alabaster Career Center                       Shelby                            Alabaster                     (205) 664-1471

Albertville Career Center                      Marshall                         Albertville                     (256) 891-1300

Alex City Career Center                       Tallapoosa                      Alex City                      (334) 749-5704

Andalusia Career Center                       Covington                       Andalusia                     (334) 881-2304

Anniston Career Center                        Calhoun                         Anniston                       (256) 832-0147

Bay Minette Career Center                   Baldwin                         Bay Minette                 (251) 937-4244

Birmingham Career Center                   Jefferson                        Birmingham                  (205) 254-1300

Brewton Career Center                        Escambia                       Brewton                       (251) 867-3247

Decatur Career Center                         Morgan                          Decatur                        (256) 350-6500

Demopolis Career Center                      Marengo                        Demopolis                    (334) 289-4228

Dothan Career Center                          Houston                         Dothan                         (334) 793-6709

Enterprise Career Center                      Coffee                           Enterprise                     (334) 393-3783

Eufaula Career Center                          Barbour                         Eufaula                        (334) 687-8251

Fayette Career Center                          Fayette                          Fayette                         (800) 648-3271

Foley Career Center                             Baldwin                         Foley                            (251) 943-2327

Fort Payne Career Center                     Dekalb                           Fort Payne                   (256) 844-4709

Gadsden Career Center                        Etowah                          Gadsden                       (256) 546-3366

Greenville Career Center                      Butler                            Greenville                     (334) 382-3120

Hamilton Career Center                        Marion                           Hamilton                      (205) 921-5672

Cullman Career Center                         Cullman                         Hanceville                    (256) 352-8412

Huntsville Career Center                       Madison                         Huntsville                     (256) 859-9360

Jackson Career Center                         Clarke                            Jackson                        (251) 246-7020

Walker County Career Center               Walker                           Jasper                                      (205) 221-2576

Luverne Career Center                         Crenshaw                      Luverne                       (334) 335-2300

Mobile Area Career Center                   Mobile                           Mobile                          (251) 461-4146

Monroeville Career Center                    Monroe                          Monroeville                  (251) 575-7013

Montgomery Career Center                  Montgomery                   Montgomery                 (334) 288-0326

Opelika Career Center                          Lee                                Opelika                        (334) 749-5704

Opp Career Center                               Covington                       Opp                             (334) 493-5398

Pell City Career Center                         Jefferson                        Pell City                       (205) 812-2723

Phil Campbell                                       Franklin                          Phil Campbell               (256) 331-6285

Scottsboro Career Center                      Jackson                          Scottsboro                    (256) 574-1720

Selma Career Center                            Dallas                            Selma                           (334) 875-8909

Sheffield Career Center                        Colbert                           Sheffield                       (256) 381-0611

Talladega Career Center                       Talladega                       Talladega                     (256) 480-2125

Troy Career Center                              Pike                               Troy                             (334) 566-9030

Tuscaloosa Career Center                     Tuscaloosa                     Tuscaloosa                   (205) 759-2576

Services offered at the Career Centers include:

  • Career Planning
  • Job Referral
  • Basic Skills / Occupational / Educational Training Assistance
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services
  • Veterans' Services
  • Unemployment Insurance Information
  • Referral to Family Support Services