A Tuscaloosa organization committed to growing, training and improving its workforce received national recognition Tuesday that comes with grant funding to boot.

Donny Jones, the Chief Workforce Officer at the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama and Chief Workforce Officer at West AlabamaWorks!, shared the good news in a press conference Tuesday morning.

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The award comes out of New York City, where the Carnegie Corporation of New York is launching a new initiative called Profiles in Collective Leadership, which will support and grow organizations and partnerships with missions similar to West AlabamaWorks! - educating youth, bolstering the workforce and demonstrating the power of unity.

Just 10 organizations were selected to be part of this inaugural group, and the Tuscaloosa organization was thrilled to learn Tuesday that they made the cut.

The honor comes with a $200,000 grant that Jones said will be spent improving some of the organization's flagship events and programs.


“Being selected for Profiles in Collective Leadership is a testament to our ongoing commitment to the students, educators, and businesses in our community," Jones said. "The funding will allow West AlabamaWorks! to continue connecting the education system to our workforce through programs like the Educator Workforce Academy and K–12 Career Pathways. It is an honor to receive national recognition for our efforts in West Alabama."

The 10 winners operate in eight states and will be designated exemplars of the program and asked to share what they have learned with each other and with the public so all are strengthened.

The Carnegie Corporation also said they spread the grants out across urban, suburban and rural areas to reduce the perception of politics and help young people from all backgrounds.

Jones and the Corporation both said the process to select recipients for this honor was national and competitive with winners selected by a panel of jurors comprised of a broad range of leaders in business, higher education, and philanthropy.

The news comes as West AlabamaWorks celebrates its 10th anniversary - a decade during which it has grown to partner with more than 250 business, industry and education entities and connected thousands of jobseekers with potential employers.


“West AlabamaWorks! is connecting students to industries in a way that is modeled statewide. Students have firsthand experience with companies, like Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, while in high school and can continue to build those relationships once they graduate,” said Rolf Wrona, vice president of human resources at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International and chairman of the board of West AlabamaWorks! “The dedication of West AlabamaWorks! to students, businesses, and the community is making a lasting impact on the region's workforce development.”

The $200,000 grant will also come with the opportunity for the Tuscaloosa organization and other winners to document and share their success stories nationally, so best practices from each can spread.

“We launched Profiles based on our belief that communities across the country are working to create opportunities for economic and social mobility as well as civic engagement irrespective of red, blue, or purple politics — and we want to listen and learn from them,” said LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, vice president of the Corporation’s National Program and program director of Education. “The 10 winners are leading examples of this type of collaborative work on the local level, and our hope is that by spotlighting and funding their efforts, we can ultimately influence the field to work in new and collective ways that also mitigate the impact of polarization.”

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