Private and public officials gathered in Demopolis Friday to announce the opening of the Black Belt Workforce Center.
The center will provide training for job seekers and employers, job application assistance, resume help and a computer lab. The center will also provide retraining and retooling for job seekers who were previously in the workforce but need help competing for the jobs available today.
“We knew that we needed to serve some of our most critical areas in Alabama by creating a center in the Black Belt. This is a place for both job hunters and employers to find resources to help them succeed,” said West Alabama Works Executive Director Donny Jones.
The center is a collaboration between West Alabama Works, the Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council (SAWDC), Central Alabama Works, and numerous governmental and nonprofit stakeholders in the area. It will be helmed by Tammi Holley.
The center is very close to the Alabama Department of Labor’s facility in the area, a department with which the training center plans to work in concert.
Jim Page is the CEO of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, which houses West Alabama Works.
He told Yellowhammer, “Even though Alabama has got a very strong economy right now and we’ve got record low unemployment, there are still far too many people who are unemployed or underemployed.”
“A major reason for that is the lack of education, lack of training, and lack of certain skill sets needed to compete for jobs, or to get a better job. We’ve long felt it important to go into our more rural areas, particularly the black belt, to make the resources more readily available closer to the people, and meet them where they are,” Page added.
Unique among workforce development initiatives in Alabama is the partnership with a local drug prevention organization: The Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE). The Tuscaloosa-based PRIDE plans to work with the center to help increase drug prevention efforts in the surrounding community.
“One of the biggest problems that workforce development has is keeping kids where they can pass a drug screening,” Derrick Osborne, the Executive Director of PRIDE told Yellowhammer on the phone.
According to Osborne, PRIDE is “trying to help people understand addiction before they become addicted.”
He added, “We want to say, you don’t have to use a drug because you feel like there isn’t anywhere for you to go. There is hope, there are things to look forward to in your life.”
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: email@example.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.