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: