Work training center opens

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 24, 2002

Before the late 1970s, the streets of Selma’s Craig Air Force Base bustled with cars and soldiers. After an announcement Thursday by Gov. Don Siegelman, Craig field could once again bustle — this time with cars and students.

Craig Field has been selected as one of five locations around the state to house a workforce development training center. That center, in a nutshell, will teach young people (&uot;and even some old people,&uot; according to Dallas County Probate Judge Johnny Jones) basic job skills that will take them off the streets and put them into the workplace.

&uot;This is a great opportunity for Alabama, for Selma and for all of the west Alabama area,&uot; Siegelman said.

Email newsletter signup

Any industrial announcement these days deals, in some regard, with the boom of car manufacturing plants in Alabama. Thursday was no different. With the construction of a $1 billion Hyundai plant less than 45 minutes from Craig Field, Siegelman said this training center will help get rural residents into &uot;$67,000-a-year jobs like they get at Mercedes.&uot;

&uot;We’ve got to be able to get our workforce jobs with these companies,&uot; Siegelman said of the car manufacturers. &uot;We don’t want them bringing in unemployed workers from Detroit.&uot;

That’s the goal of the training center, according to Ed Castile.

&uot;We’ll start with a fast-track program that lasts for 10 weeks,&uot; said Castile, director of the Alabama Industrial Development Training. Under that program, students will receive basic education skills, along with computer skills, problem solving, workplace behavior, manufacturing, and job acquisition training.

And when that first training center opens in the next two months, Castile said another center — which offers a 32-week session — will be built in Selma.

The Manufacturing Technology Institute will teach higher-skilled workers about machining and industrial maintenance, Castile said.

Throughout his short speech to economic and community leaders in Selma, Siegelman repeatedly asked Castile for details on the new training center. Apparently, all aspects of the addition to Dallas County are not finalized yet.

For instance, Siegelman said he is unsure how the center will be funded — though he promised it would be funded. &uot;We’ve got an application with the Delta Regional Authority, and I expect to get our funding from that,&uot; he said.

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal organization that helps fund economic development projects all the way from Louisiana to Georgia. Much of Alabama’s Black Belt is included in that authority.

&uot;This is the exact kind of thing they want to work with,&uot; Siegelman said.

According to Castile, the training center will cost more than $900,000 to operate.

&uot;If we don’t get it there, we’ll get money from our workforce training funds in the state,&uot; Siegelman said. &uot;But again, I don’t think we’ll have a problem with it.&uot;

Those selected to participate in the training will come from all sorts of agencies around the state, Castile said. Agencies like unemployment offices, departments of human resources, etc., will refer students to the training center. There will be no tuition charged to enroll and become a student.

While Siegelman spoke briefly on the new training center, local politicians took the podium Thursday afternoon to speak, at length, about Siegelman and his contributions to Selma and Dallas County.

State Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, expressed appreciation to a man he considered &uot;the best governor for small, rural communities in the history of Alabama.&uot;

&uot;He has lifted the vision of this area,&uot; Sanders said.

Johnny Jones said Siegelman has done &uot;a whole lot for Selma and Dallas County.&uot;

&uot;When you need him, you don’t have to go through 16 secretaries,&uot; Jones said.

And Mayor James Perkins Jr. spelled out, in clear terms, how he felt about Siegelman’s work in Selma.

&uot;Four more years of Don Siegelman would be one of the best things to happen to this state,&uot; Perkins said.