Our unemployment rate is at a record low. Each month, we see reports that more and more people are gaining entry into the labor force. This is great for all Alabamians and our economy.
While this benefits our state as a whole, it can be challenging for businesses to find qualified employees. Many managers and business owners are searching for new ways to attract and retain those they need to keep their companies running at optimum staffing levels. At the same time, some potential employees are having a difficult time finding work because they need to upgrade their skill set.
One option available is the Work Based Learning (WBL) initiative offered via the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. This is a federally-funded program designed to help individuals find good jobs and stay employed while unifying and enhancing the state’s employment, education and training programs. It is led by a regional board and is a partner entity of the Alabama Workforce Council.
Via WBL, young adults meeting certain requirements can receive valuable experience with companies that register to be a WBL job site. The goal is to promote the development of an individual’s good work habits and basic work skills by participating in a structured, paid, work-based learning activity.
Some of the WBL objectives include laying the foundation for sound at-work habits through meaningful assignments and improving the participant’s occupational and other basic skills through worksite experience. The WBL participant is under close supervision for the duration of the program.
After completion of the WBL program, participants can expect to have a better understanding of future employment or training options. Each person’s WBL activities are carefully reviewed to ensure that the expected goals and objectives are met.
Employers who choose to be a host site for a WBL program will reap the benefits of creating their own workforce pipeline without incurring the expenses of the participant’s wages. An employer gets to try out participants for employment for up to 390 hours free of charge. At the end of the 390 hours, if the employer wants to offer permanent employment to the participant, then the employer has the option to enroll the participant in On-the-Job Training for up to an additional 600 hours.
The On-the-Job Training program gives the participant an opportunity to learn additional job skills and specific duties required by that employer. Under OJT, employers are reimbursed for up to 50% of the participant’s hourly wages for the duration of the training period.
Work Based Learning provides a win-win-win for everyone involved. Participants gain valuable experience in employment, while employers get to know potential employees. Alabama benefits by gaining experienced workers. WBL is also a component in achieving Gov. Kay Ivey’s AlabamaWorks Success Plus goal of adding 500,000 credentialed/degreed individuals to the state’s workforce by 2025.
WBL and OJT are just two of the many training opportunities available for people of all ages and backgrounds that also offer a benefit component for businesses. To learn more, visit www.alabamaworks.com.
Phee Friend is board coordinator of the Governor’s Local Workforce Areas Workforce Development Division.