First-Ever AlabamaWorks! Workforce Conference Draws More Than 350 Workforce Professionals

“Workforce development is the cornerstone of economic development of any state,” Alabama Workforce Council Vice Chairman George Clark told the gathering at the inaugural AlabamaWorks Workforce Conference, held Feb. 14-15 at the Renaissance Hotel & Spa in Downtown Montgomery.

“The foundation is in place, but when changes need to be made, they will be,” Clark promised. “We must let local people decide their workforce needs.”

The theme for the conference was “Connecting the Dots,” with the goal of bringing together organizations within the workforce development arena to build partnerships to help Alabamians obtain gainful employment. More than 350 workforce development professionals from education, Rehabilitation Services, Labor, Commerce and business came together to celebrate what has been done in Alabama and to discuss what can be improved through collaboration.

Attendees heard firsthand how the many organizations across the state can work together, providing a great resource and a wealth of knowledge to take back to their individual agencies. Gov. Kay Ivey, Chancellor Jack Hawkins of Troy University and Chancellor Jimmy Baker of the Alabama Community College System spoke of the importance of workforce development to the state’s future.

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington emphasized the success the state has had in filling jobs with qualified people. “Never in the history of this state have we had this many people employed — 2.1 million,” he said. “This has been due to the collaboration between state agencies and the private sector.”

Washington added that 82,000 Alabamians found jobs after visiting a Career Center. “This is exciting news for us, but with our booming economy and historically low unemployment rate, finding trained workers can be challenging,” he said.

Ed Castile, deputy director of the Department of Commerce and director of AIDT, added, “We can always do better. We need everyone employed. Some may need coaching, but it can be done.”

Castile also referenced Gov. Ivey’s attainment initiative, “We must help our companies get the workforce they need. It will take all of us working together to accomplish this.”

Skills building must start in the K-12 system, leaders said.

“We are doing several things in our schools to prepare our kids for the workforce,” said Josh Laney, senior director of workforce development for the Alabama Department of Education. “These include career tech training, certifications, technical dual enrollment, career awareness, simulated workplace environments (stay off the cell phone/arrive on time) and Ready-to-Work.”

Laney believes that above all, flexibility is important in education. “If something is not working, then we will change it.”

Just as the department of education has been evolving, so has the two-year college system.

“We are going through a cultural change in the community college system, and we are meeting people’s and business’ needs. It matters what we do,” said ACCS Chancellor Baker.

With all levels of education and state agencies working alongside private industry under the AlabamaWorks banner, the state has realized great success for its citizens, according to Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield.

“We have been ranked nationally in several areas by Site Selection magazine. We are sixth in overall business climate and fourth by states,” Canfield noted.

And, it all started when Mercedes-Benz chose Alabama for its North American plant, back in 1993.

“At that time, our unemployment rate was 11.9 percent. Since then, it has dropped to a low of 3.5 percent,” Canfield said. “The continued transformation is due to the Alabama Workforce Council. AlabamaWorks is providing the links between jobs, employees and training. We must continually improve engagement, especially at the private sector.”

Plans for the next AlabamaWorks! Workforce Conference are already under way, with a bigger emphasis on business and industry.

Gov. Ivey: AIDT Key Factor in Getting Toyota/Mazda

Gov. Kay Ivey topped a list of impressive speakers from a variety of areas, including commerce, education, private industry and labor, at the first-ever Alabama Workforce Conference.

“I am proud to report that our economy is up and our unemployment is down. Two point one million Alabamians are employed, which is a significant benchmark,” said Ivey. “Getting people better opportunities improves their lives and that of their families.”

The governor said she will continue to work with the Legislature to maintain Alabama as a pro-business state that attracts top-notch economic ventures, such as the Toyota/Mazda plant in Huntsville. “AIDT was a key factor in the plant coming here,” she said.

“What we are doing is working, and our people are working, but we must not be satisfied or accept the status quo,” said Ivey. “We must prepare our folks for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

In her address, Ivey referenced her Strong Start. Strong Finish. program.

“Students in some schools need hands-on activities to get excited about a career. With a grant from the National Governors’ Academy, we will expand connections with young people and STEM,” she added.

“We have a thriving economy. Alabama families are better off than ever before. But, we can’t rest on our laurels. We can make our workforce the envy of our nation. Together, we will continue to move Alabama forward to more days of prosperity,” she said.

For more about last month’s conference, click the image below.


Bain and Phillips Named Assistant Directors

AIDT recently announced the appointment of assistant directors for North Alabama and for South Alabama.

Kristi Bain has joined AIDT as the assistant director for North Alabama. Bain began her job on March 1.

She came to AIDT from the Alabama Community College System and has an extensive background in education and workforce development. In her new position, she will be responsible for the management of all AIDT services in the northern Alabama region as well as overseeing the operations of the Huntsville Training Center and the Alabama Robotics Training Park.

Bain is a native of north Jefferson County. She is a graduate of Gardendale High School, Jefferson State Community College, Athens State University and the University of Alabama. She is married to Michael Bain and has two children, Ethan Creel, 17 and Jaxon Bain, 5.

AIDT also has announced that Ashley Phillips will be the new Assistant Director for South Alabama. Her job becomes effective April 1.

Phillips has been with AIDT since 1997 and has worked on several projects across the state. She currently is project manager for the Airbus Assembly Final Assembly Line project in Mobile. In her new position with AIDT, she will be responsible for the oversight of all AIDT services in the Southern Alabama region.

Phillips is a graduate of the University of Alabama. She and her husband, Tyler, live in Saraland with their son, Gray.

Drinkard Promoted to AIDT Training Manager

AIDT also recently announced the promotion of Bobby Jon Drinkard to the position of training manager. In this position, Drinkard will be responsible for overseeing program development and delivery of AIDT’s pre-employment training services and solutions, as well as leading a team of project managers.

Drinkard joined AIDT more than 10 years ago as the host/co-producer of “On The Job,” an AIDT-produced television show that focused on jobs throughout the state. 

He graduated in 2003 from Troy University’s Hall School of Journalism, where he earned a B.S. degree in Journalism and Public Relations. He is a member of the Economic Development Association of Alabama and a graduate of Leadership Alabama’s Alabama Leadership Initiative. In addition, he currently serves as chairman for the Alabama Department of Career and Technical Education Leadership Council.

Drinkard is a native of Troy. He and his wife, Hayley, have two daughters and live in Pike Road.


Unemployment Rate Hits Record Low in January; Nearly 40,000 Fewer Jobless Than a Year Ago

Alabama’s employment picture continued its impressive gains in January, setting a new seasonally adjusted unemployment rate low record of 3.7 percent, Gov. Kay Ivey announced. That’s down from December 2017’s revised rate of 3.8 percent, and well below January 2017’s rate of 5.5 percent.

In real numbers, January’s rate represents 80,841 unemployed persons, compared to 82,378 in December and 120,788 in January 2017. Some 2,079,871 people were counted as employed, compared to 2,057,886 in January 2017.

The previous record low unemployment rate measured 3.8 percent in December 2017, which also tied with October and November 2017 and with several months in 2007 (pre-recession in Alabama). The preliminary rates announced for both November and December 2017 were 3.5 percent. Following revisions, those rates came to 3.8 percent.

“As we start a new year, we’re pleased to announce that we’re starting off with a new record low unemployment rate,” Gov. Ivey said. “Nearly 40,000 fewer people are counted as unemployed, also setting a new record low. We have been working hard for months to bring quality, high-paying jobs to Alabama, and we’re putting our people back to work. We will continue this work in 2018, and we hope to maintain these fantastic numbers.”

Alabama Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington said it is not uncommon for preliminary rates to be adjusted as more precise data becomes available, especially around highly seasonal periods such as holidays. “Even with the adjustments, we are still in an extremely good place, Washington said. “It was recently announced that our yearly average unemployment rate in 2017 dropped more than any other state in the country. Our wage and salary employment continues to show yearly increases, and all 67 counties have experienced significant yearly drops in their unemployment rates, some as high as 4.9 percentage points.”

Alabama Has Largest Annual Drop in Unemployment Rate in Nation

Alabama experienced the largest over-the-year drop in the unemployment rate in the nation in 2017 based on annual averages, Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington recently announced. According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alabama’s decrease of 1.5 percentage points last year was the largest drop of any state.

Alabama’s annual average unemployment rate for 2017 was 4.4 percent, down from 2016’s average rate of 5.9 percent. Alabama was followed by Wyoming (-1.1 points) and Tennessee (-1.0 point).

“I cannot tell you how impressive Alabama’s drop is compared to the other states,” Washington said. “We beat every state in the nation. Like Alabama’s football team, we are No. 1.

“We’ve been working very hard, collaborating with Gov. Kay Ivey, other state agencies, county and local governments, and Alabama’s employers to bring down our unemployment rate,” Washington continued. “What we are doing is working. Alabamians are working and employers are hiring. We are proud to lead the country in decreasing our unemployment rate.”

Alabama’s unemployment rate for January, 3.7 percent, is the lowest on record.

Career Centers to Host Mobile Regional Job Fair; More Than 2,200 Jobs Will Be Available

The Alabama Career Center System is partnering with WKRG-TV News, the City of Mobile and the Southwest Alabama Partnership for Training and Employment to host a regional job fair on Thursday, March 22. The job fair will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Mobile Civic Center, and is free and open to the public. The first hour (10 a.m.-11 a.m.) will be open to military veterans only.

More than 90 employers are scheduled to attend, representing more than 2,200 available jobs.

Job-seekers are encouraged to pre-register online at Pre-registering will allow for faster entry, and participants are strongly encouraged to print their confirmation and bring it with them to the job fair or to save their confirmation e-mail on their phones. Job-seekers may also register on-site.

Employers who wish to register for the job fair can also visit or contact the Mobile Career Center at 251-461-4146. There is no charge for employers to participate.

“We are especially thankful for the continued cooperation and enthusiasm of our partners in this event, WKRG News, Mayor Sandy Stimpson, SWAPTE and the City of Mobile,” said Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “The dedication and collaboration between local governments, state government and private industry is what makes these job fairs a success.”

Applicants should come to the job fair with multiple copies of their résumés. They should be prepared to interview and should be dressed professionally.

“Whether you are employed or underemployed, I encourage everyone on the job hunt to come to this free job fair. To become the most business-friendly city, we need a skilled workforce to fill these jobs coming to the city of Mobile,” said Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson.

Dozens of people attended a recent job preparation workshop to help prospective employees prepare for the job fair. Staff from the area career centers, along with other workforce development partners, coached applicants in résumé preparation, interview skills and how to dress for success.

The Alabama Career Center System’s mobile career center and staff from the area career centers will be onsite at the job fair to assist job-seekers in applying for jobs.

A press briefing will be held in the Civic Center at 9:30 a.m. prior to the opening of the job fair. Mayor Stimpson, Labor Secretary Washington, SWAPTE President Sydney Raines and other leaders will speak.

The Mobile Civic Center is at 401 Civic Center Drive.

For more information about the job fair or to view a listing of upcoming job fairs, go online to Alabama Joblink.


FBLA State Conference Planned for April 12-13

The Alabama Future Business Leaders of America state conference is scheduled for April 12-13 at the Birmingham Sheraton Hotel. Approximately 2,300 students and teachers are registered for the conferences. The students will compete in more than 70 business-related competitions.

Approximately 125 judges are needed for competitions on April 12. The judges will serve on a panel for each competition.

For more information on the competitive events, go to the following links:

Competitive Event Topics
Competitive Event Guidelines
Competitive Event Rating Sheets

Below is the link to the online judge registration form for FBLA. Please sign up to judge and feel free to pass this link on to your colleagues, friends and family. Please sign up for as many time slots as possible.

Judges Registration Link 


Don’t Worry About Car Plant Hurting Local Hiring Market, AIDT’s Castile Tells Summit

Industry leaders shouldn’t fret over the Toyota-Mazda plant’s potential impact on an already challenging hiring market, Ed Castile, deputy secretary of Commerce and AIDT director, told attendees at the recent North AlabamaWorks quarterly summit held at Calhoun Community College’s Aerospace Training Center.

AIDT, which often conducts the hiring for industries moving into Alabama, needs to find roughly 30,000 people to fill new and anticipated job openings in north Alabama, the Decatur Daily reported. This includes 4,000 for Toyota and Mazda, which announced in January their plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Greenbrier, plus the suppliers Castile believes it will attract.

Castile said he knows his state agency is facing a daunting task.

“Every time someone (from industry) asks me about the Toyota-Mazda plant, their safe reaction is they’re worried they’re going to lose people,” Castile said. “But don’t panic. They are going to hire 4,000 people, but not in the first days.”

With production scheduled to begin in 2021, Castile estimated it will take six to eight years to hire 4,000 people if the company stays with this schedule.

To read the Decatur Daily article, click here.

Southeast WOW Draws More Than 4,300 Students

Region 6’s third annual Southeast Worlds of Work career expo, hosted by Southeast AlabamaWorks, last month drew more than 4,300 eighth-graders from 58 schools across southeast Alabama, the Florida panhandle and southwest Georgia.

During the Feb. 22-23 event, held at the National Peanut Festival Fairground in Dothan, students were treated to more than 55 World Operators from 10 different industry Worlds, giving them a broad view of high-demand jobs available in their region. Industries represented included agriculture, automotive, aviation, construction, healthcare, transportation, logistics, manufacturing, media production, public service, utilities and media.

“The tagline of the event is ‘Ignite Your Future,’ and that is the whole goal of WOW,” said Ryan Richards, executive director of Southeast AlabamaWorks. “Students today learn by doing things with their hands, and they had the opportunity to do that. We also hoped to communicate the different future career opportunities that a student can find right here in southeast Alabama that they may not be aware of.”

Additionally, Southeast AlabamaWorks partnered with K-12 educators and school systems to create educational resources to extend outside the event to foster conversations about career pathways in the classroom.

“We do not want this event to a one-and-done experience,” Richards said. “We are working with our regional career coaches to provide additional curriculum that teachers can use to bring the experiences from Southeast WOW to the classroom.”

Each year, businesses are asked to provide not only information about career opportunities but offer hands-on activities for students to learn about their day-to-day operations.

Mike Tew, president of Southeast WOW, said he hopes more area businesses and industries will become involved in the annual event. “It’s only going to grow and get better,” said Tew. “This is our third year, and it has gotten bigger and better each year. It is a way for us to enhance our community workforce by developing career interest among students and provide a pipeline for labor for our businesses and industries for the future.”

Businesses interested in participating in next year’s event should contact Southeast AlabamaWorks for more information. To find out more about the event, visit

Click the links below to see some of the media coverage Southeast WOW.

  • Southeast Worlds of Work Allows Teens to Consider Multiple Career Paths. Alabama News Center
  • Southeast Worlds of Work Career Expo Attracts Students from Three States. WTVY-TV, Dothan
  • Eighth-Graders Use Hammers, Drills in Hands-on Event Designed to Let Them Learn About Different Careers. Dothan Eagle

West AlabamaWorks Produces WOW 2.0 Video

West AlabamaWorks and Shelton State Community College recently hosted WOW 2.0, a two-day event held Feb. 7-8 that targeted high school juniors and seniors and postsecondary students, Students spoke with college representatives and met with industry professionals in a job fair setting.

This event was designed to build on the connections between industry and potential workers to help fill the more than 4,000 high-growth, high -demand jobs available in West Alabama.

After the event, West AlabamaWorks posted a video of highlights of WOW 2.0. Click the image below to watch the video.

AWTC Hosts Job Fair for Veterans

The Alabama Workforce Training Center recently hosted a job fair aimed at giving veterans hope for finding employment after serving. More than 50 employers were there to meet with veterans transitioning back into civilian life.

Still Serving Veterans organized the event to empower veterans who may be overwhelmed by the job-seeking process, WBRC-Fox 6 news reported.

“The transition is scary,” Veteran Employment Service Manager Larry Sailes told Fox 6. “But it’s not so scary to go and talk to an employer because all of the employers here are looking for veterans, looking to hire veterans. They appreciate the services that we provided and the sacrifices that we made.”

Veterans who missed the job fair will have another opportunity this summer. Still Serving Veterans is planning an event for July.

For more information about the upcoming job fair, contact Still Serving Veterans at 205-670-1955, or visit its office at 135 Gemini Circle, Suite 204, in Homewood.

Power UP: It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing! Encourages Girls to Pursue Careers in Construction

“Educate, Engage and Explore” was the theme of the recent Power UP: It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing! event in Birmingham. Held at the Alabama Workforce Training Center, the event featured greetings from Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce and AIDT director, as well as inspirational messages from a variety of speakers. It also included hands-on demonstrations of construction crafts for girls who might be interested in the construction industry.

Power UP was created to address the labor shortage in today’s construction industry by empowering young women to explore the viable career options the industry offers. Through interacting with employers and successful women, learning about pathways that lead to construction credentials and participating in hands-on activities, participants got the experience the construction industry firsthand.

This was the third year for the event, which targets girls in grades 6-12 and their mothers.

Power Up: It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing sponsors included Central Six AlabamaWorks, Girls Inc. of Central Alabama, AIDT/AWTC, the Academy of Craft Training, and Wood.

For more information about Power Up, click here.

North Alabama Workshop Set for April 5

Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington, Commerce Deputy Secretary and AIDT Director Ed Castile, Alabama Community College System Vice Chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development Jeff Lynn and K-12 Senior Director of Workforce Josh Laney will be among the speakers at the North Alabama Workforce Workshop to be held April 5 at Calhoun Community College in Tanner.

The workshop is being presented by the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association and will feature economic developers, employers and educators discussing Alabama’s preparation for the explosive job growth to come in manufacturing in the region.

Other speakers include Ron Davis, president of the AAMA; Donny Jones, CEO of West AlabamaWorks; and Stephanie McCulloch, assistant director of North AlabamaWorks.

The workshop, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be held in the Health Science Building at Calhoun Community College, 6250 U.S. 31, Tanner.

To register, click here.

SAWDC to Hold Quarterly Meeting March 28

Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington, Commerce Deputy Secretary and AIDT Director Ed Castile, Alabama Community College System Vice Chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development Jeff Lynn and K-12 Senior Director of Workforce Josh Laney will be among the speakers at the North Alabama Workforce Workshop to be held April 5 at Calhoun Community College in Tanner.

SAWDC AlabamaWorks will hold its quarterly council meeting on Wednesday, March 28, at 9 a.m. The meeting will be at VT MAE aerospace, Hangar 8, 2100 Aerospace Drive, Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile.

This is an opportunity to hear from state officials and learn more about Alabama’s initiatives regarding apprenticeships and dual enrollment.

To register, click here.

For more information, email Shernita Taylor of SAWDC AlabamaWorks at [email protected] or call her at 251-445-2090.



  • Ivey Signs Bill for Toyota-Mazda Tax Abatements.
  • Alabama Plant Figures Prominently in Mercedes-Benz Global Electric Vehicle Initiative. Alabama News Center
  • Charles Barkley Plans to Bring More Black Plumbers, Electricians to Alabama.
  • Alabama Exported Record $21.7 Billion in Goods in 2017.
  • Commercial Construction in Alabama is $12 Billion Industry, Study Says.
  • Opinion: HB317: The Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act Will Keep Alabama on the List.
  • Morimoto to Become New President of Honda Alabama.
  • California Businessman Asks, “Why Can’t We Be More Like Alabama?”
  • New Member Appointed to Community College Board. Tuscaloosa News
  • Lucas Hoffman and Nikki Dyess from AlabamaWorks on the Ford Faction. Yellowhammer Radio
  • Toyota Churns Out Engines Built to Power Cars of Today and Tomorrow. Business Alabama
  • Honda Alabama Names New President. Birmingham Business Journal
  • Honda Celebrates 25 Millionth Vehicle Built in U.S.
  • Prosperity Fund Supports Growth of Alabama Bamboo Industry. Southern Research
  • Vocational Training Is Key to Maintaining Construction’s Annual $12 Billion Impact in Alabama. Yellowhammer News
  • Alabama Construction CEO Named President of AGC of America. Birmingham Business Journal
  • Report: Alabama One of Seven States Where Employment Hasn’t Recovered From Recession. Birmingham Business Journal
  • What Are Alabama’s Automakers Worth?

Region One (North)

  • Gov. Ivey Announces $1 Million Grant Allowing Calhoun Community College to Start New Nursing Program. WHNT/TV, Huntsville
  • Toyota-Mazda Means New Emphasis on Alabama 20 Bridge.
  • North Alabama Schools Preparing for Auto Growth. Associated Press
  • Calhoun Receives $2.5 Million to Expand Nursing Program. Decatur Daily
  • FBI Growth in Huntsville Will Be “a Bonanza,” Sen. Shelby Says.
  • Site Work, Employee Training Awaits for Toyota-Mazda Facility. News Courier, Athens
  • Huntsville Verizon Call Center Transitioning Employees to Work From Home.
  • Huntsville to Sell Bonds to Help Finance Toyota-Mazda Project.
  • TechSpace Available at Old Rogers Building. Times Daily, Florence
  • Calhoun Community College Hopes to Interest Women in Truck Driving Program. WHNT TV, Huntsville
  • Tanner Students Explore College Options. News Courier, Athens
  • FreightCar America Acquiring Navistar Shoals Facility.
  • Calhoun Hosts Career and Workforce Expo. News Courier, Athens
  • Mazda, Toyota Establish Joint Venture Company for Huntsville Plant.
  • SkillsUSA Competition Features Best of the Best. Times Daily, Florence
  • Alabama’s January Unemployment Rate Is 3.7 Percent; Cullman County Rate Ticks Up to 3.5 Percent. Cullman Sense

Region Two (East)

  • Southern Union Seeking Permanent President. Randolph Leader, Roanoke
  • Career, Technical Education Highlighted at Sylacauga City Schools. Anniston Star
  • Jefferson State Program Gives Single Mothers Chance to Earn Welding Certification. Anniston Star
  • Unemployment Drops Statewide, Rises Locally. Gadsden Times
  • Thousands of Students Attend Hands-on Career Event in Oxford. Anniston Star

Region Three (West)

  • WOW 2.0 Connects High School Students With Available Career Opportunities in West Alabama. WBRC/Fox 6, Birmingham
  • Worlds of Work Extends Job Opportunities for High School Students. Tuscaloosa News
  • Job and Education Events Held for Families Affected By Coal Industry Job Losses. WBRC/Fox 6, Birmingham
  • Tuscaloosa County Schools to Expand Career Tech Program. WBRC/Fox 6, Birmingham
  • Truck & Wheel Opens Plant in Vance, to Employ 74.
  • Spanish Auto Supplier Opens First U.S. Plant in Vance. Tuscaloosa News

Region Four (Central Six)

Region Five (Central)

  • The F-35 Makes History, and Protects It, in Alabama, U.S. Rep. Sewell Says. Montgomery Advertiser
  • Roby: Relationships Mattered in Decision to Bring F-35 to Montgomery. Montgomery Advertiser
  • Phenix City Distribution Center Closing, 150 Losing Jobs.
  • Opelika’s Mando America, Pharmavite Eye Expansions.
  • County Gets Mixed News on Jobless Front. Alexander City Outlook

Region Six (Southeast)

Region Seven (Southwest)

  • Ivey Visits Mobile-Area Steel Mill; Company Says HQ Move to Alabama Under Way.
  • Austal Makes Cut for Next Round of Navy Frigate Program.
  • Airbus, Bombardier Describe Big Growth Plans for Mobile.
  • Production Ramp Up at Airbus Alabama Factory Could Add 600 Jobs. Made in Alabama
  • Mobile Losing 155 Jobs as BAE Systems Shuts Down Ship Repair Works.
  • Mobile-Based AeroStar to Expand Facility, Add Aircraft Service Jobs.
  • $315 Million from RESTORE Act to Fund Projects in Mobile, Baldwin Counties.

The Alabama Workforce Council
The Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) serves as an advisory body in reviewing potential policies, recommending structure and alignment, developing innovative educational workforce programming, and discussing issues critical to the workforce development needs in Alabama.