The Tuscaloosa County Commission approved $175,000 in American Rescue Act funding to jumpstart a youth workforce development with an online portal.

Assistant County Administrator David Howell presented the key points Wednesday morning. The funds will also go towards investing in the West Alabama Works Workforce Center in Brookwood, seeking to provide assistance to unemployed workers, with emphasis on targeting youths Services will include:

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  1. Subsidized Jobs, including for young people. Summer youth employment programs to directly address the negative economic impacts of the pandemic on young people and their families and communities
  2. Programs that provide paid training and/or experience targeted primarily to formerly incarcerated individuals and/or communities experiencing high levels of violence exacerbated by the pandemic
  3. Programs that provide workforce readiness training, apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship opportunities, skills development, placement services and/or coaching and mentoring

"I think it's a very well thought out program, the youth jobs program," said Probate Judge Rob Robertson during the discussion. "It's very important to make some inroads into that in the coming year. The Brookwood WorkForce Center continues to reach out and get folks in, and get them into that career path."

Robertson said he'd been communicating with West Alabama Works over the past year about developing a specific youth-directed employment portal. He explained that the reason for this is that stepping into the workforce can be intimidating for young people, especially students. Still, he said students should take advantage of opportunities even for part-time jobs.

"We've seen it work several times, especially with World of Works," said District 1 Commissioner Stan Acker. "They really show kids there's a lot of different paths."

"I think this will be a tremendous opportunity. Through COVID, there's been a lot of disruption in the labor market. The Brookwood logistics center, which has been doing great work, this gives them the chance to get folks that have transitioned during COVID back in, picking up new skills like with all the electric vehicle transition happening."

Robertson said this program has a lot of room to grow in other areas of the county such as with Shelton State Community College and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.

"There's a lot going on in labor, so it's good timing. I think it's a good investment strategically for the future of this county... We have a lot of opportunity, we have a lot of ways to acquire skills," he said. But there's still a disconnect. How do we make that easier? How do we bridge that gap? I think this program will go a long way."

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