Getting ready to work in Alabama

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

A statewide program fast-tracks residents for employment.

Alabama’s Ready to Work program has been redesigned and revitalized a few times since it launched in the early 2000s, but the focus has always been the same: helping residents prepare for employment.

Ready to Work provides a career pathway for those with limited education and job experience. Participants receive no-cost workforce education that leads to entry-level employment. The program is operated by the Alabama Community College System in cooperation with workforce development agency AIDT.

RTW sites are located at community colleges around the state, particularly in those areas where there’s an economic need. Customized curriculum is delivered both in classrooms and online and includes soft-skills training in areas such as communication, workplace behaviors, financial literacy and problem solving. Courses are eight weeks long. Participants also receive job placement assistance, and are eligible for a one-time tuition and fee waiver, up to four credit hours, at an Alabama community college.

Those who complete the program successfully and earn a 70 percent or higher on comprehensive assessments receive the Alabama Certified Worker Certificate, issued by AIDT, and the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), issued by ACT.

At Snead State Community College, the number of program completers is on the rise. Of the students enrolled in the free program in 2017, 84 percent found employment or enrolled in college to continue their education, according to a release from the college. In 2013, that percentage was 74.

Of the participants who enrolled in college, 32 students have since earned an associate degrees. Another 14 have earned short-term certificates.

“Our instructors and staff do a really good job in assisting our Ready to Work students with their transition to college. It is about building relationships, and they know they have a place to come if they have questions,” said Teresa Walker, director of workforce development and the Arab Instructional Site.

Industry partnerships are vital to the program. Snead State partners with Newman Technologies, which now has 26 employees who have completed the program since September and were hired permanently with a pay increase. Seven more employees are currently in the program. And Kappler Inc. in Guntersville will soon be hiring program completers.

Ready to Work got a makeover in 2017, with a new, more streamlined curriculum and modules that focus on various industries. Because the program moves quickly, participants need to be dedicated from the get-go.

“It is a fast track program and there is a lot of material,” said Shalyndrea Jones, Ready to Work Program coordinator. “You have to come in with a goal in mind of completing the program to better yourself.”

How does your state or institution help residents get ready to work? Sound off at LinkedIn.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.