West Alabama Works attempting to fill labor force void

Industry and business leaders from across the area met Monday at Shelton State Community College for a program about West Alabama Works and how that program is working to match education and training programs with industry needs.

Donny Jones, COO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama (CCWA), said during the program that West Alabama Works represents a nine-county region and is industry driven.

“Everything we do is focused on the current and future needs of industry. Industry drives what we do and how we used funds for workforce development,” Jones said.

West Alabama Works has four primary areas of focus: industry, funding, education and programs, and policy.

Jones spoke about the need to rethink education and what the goals should be in terms of preparing a student for adulthood.

“For most, the goal is to get a four-year degree, but the majority of jobs available are not four-year degree jobs. We need to consider what the opportunities are in our region and the reality of what our communities need,” he said.

West Alabama Works was established in 2014 when the Regional Workforce Council approached the CCWA to work together in improving workforce development across the region.  Since then the goal of WAW has been to create job training that is industry-driven.

“(Training efforts) are much more effective when led by industry,” Jones said.

He said it is important to continue efforts that form partnerships between industry and education, citing the success of the Worlds of Work program. The program is designed to introduce students to the many high-demand, high-wage opportunities available across the region.

“Every eighth grade, representing 60 schools, participate (in World of Works). Industry pays for the event and it is an industry-driving model,” Jones said.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, June 16 issue of the Demopolis Times.)