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Alabama’s state workforce agency receives top national honor

AIDT, Alabama’s official state workforce development agency, on Thursday morning announced the selection of its virtual reality training program as the 2021 Workforce Program of the Year award by the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals, the association that represents more than 3,000 state and local workforce leaders in all 50 states.

The prestigious distinction recognizes innovative workforce programs that are creating new ways of delivering high-quality workforce training services. The selection specifically recognized AIDT for working to make job training in one of Alabama’s fastest-growing industries accessible to thousands of unemployed workers and aspiring manufacturing professionals across the Yellowhammer State.

“During this period of change and uncertainty in the labor market and broader economy, it’s essential that we use every tool at our disposal to rethink workforce development and training, and our investments in immersive learning technology are reflective of that belief,” stated Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce and executive director of AIDT.

“We’re humbled to receive this national recognition. It’s reflective of the AIDT team’s focus and commitment to developing high-impact training pathways that are expanding access to good-paying jobs and meaningful careers in fast-growing industries for every Alabamian,” he added.

Powered by immersive learning startup TRANSFR, AIDT’s virtual reality training initiative was built in collaboration with several companies, including Hyundai Power Transformers (HPT) — the Montgomery-based division of Hyundai Electric Systems that specializes in the manufacture of power transformers used in electrical grids across the United States.

Building on more than a decade of deep, technical training partnership between the two organizations, AIDT teamed with HPT to create a virtual reality simulation that vividly recreates the company’s seven-story manufacturing facility. Incumbent workers and trainees gain invaluable first-hand experience with the safety protocols required to operate heavy machinery and equipment of up to 400 tons, lifting power transformers as heavy as 800,000 pounds.

“To meet the needs of Alabama’s state manufacturing base, we need to continue to find new ways to deliver precision training experiences that can help aspiring professionals and trainees develop the on-the-job experience required to excel in our industry,” said Tony E. Wojciechowski, chief human resources officer for HPT. “As an employer partner that depends on the output of our public workforce infrastructure, our organization has long enjoyed a productive and collaborative working relationship with AIDT. This recognition reaffirms the forward-thinking approach to innovation in workforce development.”

The program also helps to increase compliance with industry standards as HPT employees learn how to operate and service cranes within OSHA standards.

“The impact of this innovative new partnership reaches far beyond just the needs of one employer or community in the state,” said Bharani Rajakumar, founder and CEO of TRANSFR. “The workforce and company leaders involved in this work are working at the bleeding edge of learning and technology to help expand access to good-paying careers in industries like manufacturing open to more Alabamians—regardless of their educational background.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn