ACCS targets special training for existing Alabama businesses

The Alabama Community College System (ACCS) intends to increase its support of existing business and industry across the state, helping companies expand their operations, upgrade the skills of their workforces and create new jobs.

ACCS is proposing the creation of a special fund that would allow the System’s community and technical colleges to provide education and training to existing Alabama businesses. Assisting homegrown enterprises with these resources will drive growth in the small business sector, where much of the state’s job growth occurs.

“Helping existing businesses across Alabama with their training needs through this program would allow these businesses to become more competitive and efficient,” ACCS Chancellor Mark Heinrich said. “For some, it would provide a foundation for future growth. For others, it would accelerate expansion and job creation.”

Establishing this special education and training fund is among the budget priorities set by the ACCS for the upcoming fiscal year. The $10 million fund would be devoted to meeting special training needs unique to existing business and industry.

“We listen to business and industry in both urban and rural parts of the state, and we sometimes hear complaints from some of them that their workforce needs are being ignored or neglected,” Heinrich said. “With funding for this program, we can help these companies become economic engines in their communities by enhancing their capabilities.”

ACCS schools are a proven partner to business and industry on a community level in Alabama, Heinrich said. In the 2012-13 year, the System’s Training for Existing Business & Industry (TEBI) program assisted nearly 930 Alabama companies by providing customized training to 45,000 workers. The System’s Alabama Technology Network, which also conducts training, served more than 7,500 workers at nearly 500 companies.

According to the Small Business Administration, homegrown small businesses are crucial to Alabama’s economy, employing nearly 800,000 workers. Governor Robert Bentley called for the creation of a Small Business Advisory Council in his Jan. 14 “State of the State” speech.

“Enabling ACCS schools to provide additional education and training to existing and expanding business and industry partners is an investment that will pay for itself through increased economic vitality,” Heinrich said.

Other ACCS budget priorities also aim to provide assistance to businesses needing skilled workers. The System wants to expand its innovative “earn and learn” internship/apprenticeship training partnerships like the “Mechatronics” program between Mercedes-Benz, Shelton State Community College and others.

The System also wants to expand participation in dual enrollment programs that permit Alabama high school students to take ACCS career technical courses such as electrical technology or welding for free. These students receive both college credit and valuable experience in a career field while still enrolled in high school.