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Workforce council meeting encourages cooperation

Business and industry leaders got a first hand look at plans to help improve the workforce in Escambia County Wednesday as the Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council presented a workshop on the subject.

Al Etheridge with SAWDC said the purpose of the meeting was to determine the needs of business and industry and help find a way to meet those needs through workforce development.

“It is our goal to understand the employers in our area what their needs are for a workforce,” Etheridge said. “By determining that we can better guide our educators in a direction to supply that workforce demand.”

Etheridge said several communities are already beginning a process of achieving that goal with putting unemployed or underemployed workers in the best position to meet workforce needs.

Community and technical colleges are already on target with some training opportunities that will help meet the growing needs of business and industry throughout the region.

Al Bennett, director of Workforce Development Training at Jefferson Davis Community College, said the efforts of the institution are moving toward being able to produce educated workers to fill needed positions.

“We are here to listen to what those businesses and industries need in this area and listen to what they are asking for,” Bennett said. “I have a vested interest in our education system and want to provide training for the positions these businesses need.”

Etheridge said getting an open dialog between the Council, business/industry and educational institutions is the first goal to help get workers back to work.

“We want everyone to have ownership in this process,” Etheridge said. “We want to create a taskforce of individuals who will respond to dislocated workers with personal contact. We want to do what we can to influence the supply of workers based on what we know the demand is.”