The Community Foundation’s Workforce Development Initiative

Mentored by a very successful workforce council model in Mobile, the Community Foundation has helped evolve our local workforce council (the Central Six Workforce Development Council) into a more impactful entity that works closely with: Birmingham Business Alliance, the Jefferson County Workforce Investment Board, Alabama Industrial Development and Training, the Alabama Technology Network, local community colleges and the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education. Central Six serves Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker counties helping them create partnerships around workforce development systems that better respond to the needs of local business and industry.

Several years ago, CFGB helped fund the development and implementation of Birmingham Business Alliance’s (BBA) Blueprint Birmingham, which is a regional economic growth plan focusing on four major goals. One of the initial findings showed that the size and educational attainment of our local workforce was an issue. The state of Alabama has ten workforce development regions (established by Gov. Bob Riley in 2006). These regions are in the most basic form a convener of educational institutions and the businesses for which they try to provide workforce. They also convene to advise the state on how to disburse a modest amount of funding ($4 million) to support requests from all ten regions. Some of the funding, for example, goes to support post-secondary career tech programs and dual enrollment, which allows secondary level students to take some college level classes for college credit.

In Mobile, the workforce region (9) has been converted into a 501c3 nonprofit, the SAWDC (Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council), which allows them to seek other support from the business community and institutional philanthropy. Furthermore, this allows them to make more impact in areas like youth development and industry partnerships. Their workforce pipeline is responsible to existing and emerging industry, and it has helped economic development. The Birmingham Business Alliance is working to emulate Region 9 in Mobile and has initiated an application for 501c3 status. Due to legal issues, it was recommended that the Community Foundation become the fiscal agent for Central 6 so that the application would not be impeded. So, in 2013, the Community Foundation effectively assumed the role of fiscal agent and continues in that now.

This year, Central Six has set up a new office and hired an Executive Director, Antiqua Cleggett. The organization has been selected as a National Fund for Workforce Solutions site and was awarded a $100,000 Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant to add a case manager to help build industry-responsive workforce development systems within the six counties it serves.

Central Six is partnering with its neighbors in Tuscaloosa (Region 3) to better support the needs of Mercedes and its suppliers, and working with established and formative-stage industry clusters focused on construction, automotive, and healthcare. These clusters will help Central Six create more responsive systems to address the short and long term workforce needs in our area. Part of the system strategy is the introduction of more paid internships and apprenticeship programs, and Central Six is building partnerships to help make that happen.