SUMITON – Antiqua Claggett, the executive director of the Central Six Alabama Works initiative, gave a brief overview of AlabamaWorks at the East Walker Chamber of Commerce monthly …
SUMITON – Antiqua Claggett, the executive director of the Central Six Alabama Works initiative, gave a brief overview of AlabamaWorks at the East Walker Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting this week.
Alabama has seven regional workforce councils, with Central Six including Jefferson, Walker, Chilton, Blount, St. Clair, and Shelby counties.
The goal of the Central Six region is to be “boots on the ground” and be responsive to the workforce needs of industry.
“We want to bring together like-minded industries with similar needs and begin to address those needs,” Claggett said. Once they understand the industry needs, they then work to match those back to the job seekers to help them train for those jobs.
Central Six works closely with Bevill State Community College and the other community colleges in central Alabama. They also work with the K-12 system.
Central Six recently sponsored an event for high school career technical education instructors and career coaches to give them a deeper engagement with industry representatives.
“They met in one-on-one sessions to better understand what their needs are, what they are looking for, and what quality of students that industry wants to hire,” Claggett said.
The organization also helps community colleges with equipment purchases. Once a year, colleges submit grants and those grant dollars are allocated through the Alabama Community College system, but Central Six has oversight of that process.
"We get to make the recommendations whether or not these grants should be approved,” she said. The organization tries to ensure these equipment purchases align with the needs of industry.
“Our secondary customer is our job seeker,” Claggett said. The Central Six has a workforce program coordinator who does outreach, attends job fairs and recruits individuals into the workforce pipeline.
Once an individual job seeker is in the system, they go through a case management process. Here, the coordinator evaluates these individuals to gets a better understanding of what their existing skill set and interests are.
“We then try to marry those attributes, and plug them into training programs,” she said.
Often there is no cost to the individual. For those individuals who have existing skills, the coordinator works with them on resume writing, interviewing, and other things to help them get a job.
This year Central Six hosted an event called Worlds of Work at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC), and 3,500 students attended to do hands-on activities, Claggett said.
The organization chose the BJCC because it was the only facility in the region large enough to accommodate the 12,000 students if they all chose to attend the event. This initiative is targeted toward eighth-grade students to give them an opportunity to touch, see, feel, and do things that simulate real-world work experience. The activities involved manipulating robots, do masonry work, maneuver a tractor, as well as participating in a simulation for drawing blood.
The goal of this type of event is to encourage students to select career technical education as they move into high school.
From an economic standpoint, the industries that seem to be thriving right now are bioscience, information technology, and advanced manufacturing. These are the companies that are looking to relocate here, and to grow here.
“In order for us to be competitive in the long game, we’ve got to start looking at how to train our students in those areas," she said. The initiative that is focusing on this is Building it Together. More information is available on this initiative at www.buildingittogether.com.
They are also beginning to bring the Ready to Work (RTW) initiative into high schools. RTW is an essential skills program, and Central Six has pushed it down to the high school level. Each student in the program will do about five weeks of training where they will learn core essential skills, and then after that, they will have an introduction to industry.
Central Six has talked with Al Moore, the dean of career technical education and workforce solutions at Bevill State, and the Bevill State President Kim Ennis about doing an industry engagement day in Walker County. Central Six is beginning to focus on industry in the area trying to understand the needs of industry here.
“We are very interested in doing whatever we can do to support building out a workforce here in Walker County. I think there is tremendous opportunity here,” Claggett said.
There are challenges in Walker County like transportation, but each of the Central Six counties has challenges, according to Claggett. “But there is great potential as well,” she ended.
One may visit the Central Six AlabamaWorks website at https://alabamaworks.com/centralsix/ for more information.
In other business, chamber vice president Bill Doss discussed the Second Annual Golf Tournament at Horse Creek Golf Course.
Doss also said that he wants to make sure the chamber is plugged in to the new initiative to improve downtown Sumiton.