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Workforce Under Construction Part 2: Alabama Workforce Training Center

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Started as a directive from Governor Robert Bentley, the Alabama Workforce Training Center (AWTC) was established to meet the needs of local businesses and industries—specifically manufacturing and construction—in regards to helping maintain an adequately trained workforce. The facility is operated by Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) in partnership with several entities including the Birmingham Business Alliance, private manufacturing and construction companies, community colleges, the Alabama Technology Network and the State Department of Education. “It was a tremendous opportunity for Birmingham and Jefferson County to finally have a workforce development center that was representative of industry wishes,” said State Representative Rod Scott. “This center will allow us to sustain the retiring workforce with skilled laborers, and I hope it will allow us to expand in other skilled workforce areas.”

Opened in August 2014, the Center offers training for existing employees who need to advance their skills. “Anyone from any part of the state can come train here as long as they are an employee of a company,” said the AWTC Director Rod Jones. “And it’s at no cost to the company or employee unless it’s specialized training that requires outside instructors.”

For construction, the center offers a Construction Trades Orientation/Refresher Program, which is a 40-hour course focusing on topics like OSHA 10, math/measuring tools, basic hand tools, scaffolding building, time management, soft skills and leadership development. In addition, it offers courses on a variety of trades including electrical, welding, HVAC, masonry, roofing and carpentry. “Working with ABC of Alabama has helped us really understand what the needs are in the construction industry,” said AIDT Director Ed Castile. “This has allowed us to provide what these companies need, not just what others think they need. And we are happy to be here to help.”

While many courses are held at the training center in Birmingham, the facility will work with companies and community colleges around the state to host a program locally. In fact, OSHA 10 classes were recently held in south Alabama. “If a need arises, we can do what we can to get the training done where it needs to be done,” said Jones. “We will work with the industry however we can to make sure its needs are being met.”

Two ABC member companies, Xcel Masonry and Selective Masonry, have teamed up with AWTC, ABC of Alabama, the community college system and K-12 to create a masonry training program that will be held at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. “We have a manpower shortage we’re facing specifically when it comes to the masonry sector, and even as competitors we realize that we must come together to find ways to solve the problem,” said Selective Masonry President Jonathan Watts. “It’s going to take effort from us all to produce more masons for the industry, and that’s what this masonry training is all about.”

Starting this fall, the masonry training—which is also open to high school students—is a two-year program that will include opportunities for summer jobs for students to get hands-on experience as well. “It’s not just training in the classroom but in the summertime months they will actually have the opportunity to get out and make some money while they are putting what they have learned into action,” said Xcel Masonry President Ricky Cleveland. “We’re excited about this opportunity. We have to do all we can to get students in the field and then stay in Alabama to work.”

In addition to hosting classes at outside locations, companies can host their own classes at the AWTC. Dunn Construction held a form building class at the training center in May. “That was really successful, and we’re anticipating that they will hold another form building class here,” Jones said. “We have another local contractor that utilized the facility two nights a week for a trades training for their employees that they were sponsoring. They provided the instructor and we provided the facility.”

In the future, training center leaders are hoping to open up the facility to non-employed participants and even high school students. But so far, the training center has maintained essentially maximum capacity in its construction courses. “First and foremost, we want to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the industry,” Jones said. “Before we open up these courses, we want to make sure that the industry is getting a chance to train who it needs to train.”

More information: www.awtc.aidt.edu.

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