MUSCLE SHOALS - Troy VanFleet stood during a recent North AlabamaWorks meeting and shared a story about a recent training program for employees of four industries.

The companies included North American Lighting. VanFleet is human resources manager for the Muscle Shoals plant.

He explained the companies combined to receive a grant that enabled them to put incoming injection-molding employees through 52 hours of training during 13 weeks.

"Four companies now have injection-molding workers to help them do their work," VanFleet said.

Roger Garner, director of workforce solutions at Northwest-Shoals Community College, said the grant was for $15,000 per company. It allowed those companies to fill a class at the college.

"We can do this in whatever area is needed," Garner said. "We have a lot of industries that can't fill a class on their own, but we can do that with this model."

It's an example of the type of projects the AlabamaWorks program can develop to help employers and educators.

In its first year, AlabamaWorks is a network of those who provide workforce services, including governmental entities, educators and companies. Its goal is to interconnect them and help train and match those in the job market with employers.

During a September meeting of local representatives from the advanced manufacturing field, those in attendance shared ideas and suggestions. Similar meetings were held for those in health care and construction fields.

Advanced manufacturing industry officials have expressed the need for injection-molding workers during other NorthAlabama works meetings, said Stephanie McCulloch, assistant director for North AlabamaWorks, the region of AlabamaWorks that includes northwest Alabama.

Construction officials have expressed a desire for more carpenters, McCulloch said. Health care officials have voiced the need for "success coaches" in their field. The coaches could, for example, mentor someone through the nursing program.

McCulloch said industries, educators and local governments want to understand the needs of these entities because it helps them provide a ready workforce.

"They're all really ready and willing to listen to all of your needs," she said.

Caryn Hairell, principal at Muscle Shoals Career Academy, told industry representatives these meetings help the academy orient its students in the directions of need.

"If we're not producing students ready for you, we're wasting our time," Hairell said.

Micah Bullard, executive director of North AlabamaWorks, listened as Northwest-Shoals officials told industry representatives about the college's Ready to Work free training program.

Bullard also heard industry managers discuss with school officials the need for electrical and instrumentation workers, and their desire to have a workforce with better "soft skills," such as on-time attendance.

Afterward, he said those are the types of exchanges officials had in mind when AlabamaWorks was created.

"There's all kinds of transfer of information that wouldn't have happened without this," Bullard said. or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski


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