Driving toward success in Alabama's Black Belt
While Alabama's automobile manufacturing industry continues to grow, finding a qualified workforce to keep up with the demand presents a challenge.
A $100,500 grant from the Delta Regional Authority is helping the University of West Alabama (UWA), in Livingston address that need by developing a program to train students to become certified automotive and industrial maintenance technicians. The qualifications are a requirement to obtain jobs with the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International plant in nearby Tuscaloosa County, which recently expanded operations. The vehicle manufacturer produces four Mercedes models, with another to be added in 2015.
Graduates can also find employment at a number of manufacturers that supply components for Mercedes-Benz vehicles, as well as other automobile manufacturers in Alabama.
Thirty-nine students are enrolled in the short-term certification course, which began in fall 2013. The DRA funding, which was used to purchase state-of-the-art equipment, supplements other funding from the U.S. Department of Labor and area businesses.
While the goal is to provide people with jobs and manufacturers with skilled labor, officials also hope that a highly trained workforce will be an incentive for other industries to locate in Alabama's Black Belt counties, which for decades have experienced high employment, poverty and a loss of population because of fewer available jobs.
"Not only will we open doors for new industries who will consider our area for location, we will make it possible for people to secure employment in jobs where they will receive higher compensation than they would without this training," said UWA President Richard Holland.