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Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced that Alabama has been awarded $17.8 million to provide opportunities for Alabama workers that have been displaced by COVID-19 to develop new skills in high demand industries.

The funds will be administered by the Alabama Department of Commerce, on behalf of the State Workforce Investment Board, to support the Alabama workforce Stabilization Program (AWSP).

“As governor, I recognize that Alabama’s Reimagine Workforce Preparation grant award is timely in our effort to reskill the more than 700,000 Alabamians who have filed an initial unemployment claim into an in-demand occupation and a pathway to self-sufficiency through the Alabama Workforce Stabilization Program,” Ivey said. “The Alabama Workforce Stabilization Program will assist Alabamians with earning credentials of value and entering the in-demand jobs that will help us reach the Alabama postsecondary attainment goal of adding 500,000 additional credentialed workers to Alabama’s workforce by 2025.”

The funds were allocated from the Education Stabilization Fund of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump. This is an additional allocation that is separate from the $1.9 billion in CARES Act funds the state of Alabama received in March 2020.

The U.S. Department of Education announced the Reimagine Workforce Preparation (RWP) grant competition in late spring 2020, inviting any state to apply. Specifically, it called for projects that expand educational opportunities through short-term, career pathways, sector-based education and training programs or support college sustainability and local entrepreneurship through small business incubators.

The Alabama Workforce Stabilization Program, under the criteria established in the grant competition, will assist low-income Alabamians who have been displaced by COVID-19 transition into new fields. The AWSP will be targeted at disconnected or dislocated workers with basic skills deficiencies and serving incumbent workers or dislocated workers who are prepared for direct employment.

The Alabama Community College System (ACCS) and the Alabama Technology Network (ATN) will deliver the training programs throughout the duration of the grant. ACCS Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker expressed his support for the state’s efforts to help disconnected or dislocated Alabamians get back to work. 

“Providing workforce-focused education, credentials and skills training to help Alabamians enter or reenter the workforce is what we do at Alabama’s community colleges and we look forward to assisting even more individuals with these efforts thanks to this grant,” Baker said. 

Deputy Commerce Secretary Ed Castile, who also serves as the Director of the Alabama Industrial Development Training Agency and administers the State Workforce Investment Board, will also implement the Alabama Workforce Stabilization Program’s curriculum.

“It is very rewarding for our work to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and be awarded this grant for the Alabama Workforce Stabilization Program,” Castile said. “With Governor Ivey’s leadership we quickly identified our citizen’s needs and with a creative set of partners at the Alabama Community College System, State Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce; along with a host of intermediaries including Manufacture Alabama, Pack Health, Innovate Birmingham, the Alabama Nursing Home Association, the Alabama Construction Workforce Alliance and the Alabama Automobile Manufacturers Association a true collaborative effort has been in effect. Winning this grant simply validates our efforts and certainly will assist us in meeting our goals.”

Manufacture Alabama President George Clark, who also serves as Chairman of the State Workforce Investment Board, helped AWSP secure this grant and will lead the implementation of the grant as State Workforce Investment Board chairman.

"I have made this a priority during my time as the president of Manufacture Alabama and Chairman of the WIOA Board,” Clark said. “This is a huge step in the right direction for workforce development in the state, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I'd like to commend Governor Ivey and Senator Shelby for their commitment to making Alabama the best political and business climate for manufacturers in the U.S."

Alabama was one of eight states awarded the RWP grant. Other awardees include Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Michigan, Nevada, New York and Hampton University in partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia.