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Elite Work-Force Development Programs Draw Industries - and Jobs

Companies that take advantage of customized work-force development programs across the South have found success.

Feb/Mar 10
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Another Southern Example
Since its inception in 1971, Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) has provided services to over 390,000 workers and 4,000 companies in Alabama. An institution of the Alabama Community College System, AIDT provides a total work-force delivery system at no cost to employers for recruiting, screening, and training potential employees; developing and producing training materials; providing training facilities; and delivering customized services. AIDT also became one of the first state work-force training entities in the country to earn international ISO 9001:2000 certification for its quality management system and also recently earned certification to the ISO 9001:2008 standard.

"Our pre-employment selection system filters applicants and offers companies a pool to choose from that meets their specific requirements," indicates AIDT Director Ed Castille. "Most companies we work with tell us that having the right employee hired and then trained is the most important item and will likely be the single most important success factor in the long run for the company. Our system finds and trains those employees."

AIDT offers comprehensive pre-employment selection and training, leadership development, on-the-job training, maintenance assessments, process improvement assessments, and industrial safety assessments and training - all of which are customized to a company's specific needs. These in-depth services are free to employers if they meet the minimum criteria for number of jobs created and starting wages offered.
AIDT's turnkey approach to work-force development was a major factor in global steelmaker ThyssenKrupp's decision to locate a new carbon steel and stainless steel plant in Mobile, Alabama. On track to begin operations in 2010, the plant is considered to be one of the largest private industrial development projects in the United States in the last 10 years. Construction alone has created nearly 30,000 jobs; when fully operational, the plant will employ 2,700 workers and create about 50,000 ancillary jobs over the next 20 years - a huge boost to the local economy.

"One of the factors that made Alabama attractive for us was AIDT's expertise in helping start-up companies obtain, train, and continuously develop new employees," says Christian Koenig, spokesperson for ThyssenKrupp. As part of that continuous process of improvement, AIDT also assisted in the development and construction of the 50,000-square-foot, on-site training center, which it also operates.

Looking to the Future
A talented and highly skilled work force is always at the top of the list for companies that are expanding or relocating. "Companies that just look for cash incentives often don't [succeed] because when the money's gone, there's no core value left," says Quick Start Director Brown. "Work-force training is what builds the team that has the commitment, skills, and dedication to keep a company going, to start delivering return on investment from day one, and to support the longevity of the business. It really depends on if the company is making a short-term play to the balance sheet or is focused on a sustainable business with a quality product or service."

Other states have attempted to model programs like FastStart, AIDT, and Quick Start, but find it challenging if they lack expertise across a wide range of industries, plentiful and experienced industry advisors, a well-connected technical college system, or a history of exceeding expectations when it comes to building relationships with industry. "It's proven very difficult for other programs to reach the point where they can consistently deliver the innovative training, fully customized to a company's exact technology and process," says Brown.

Again, bear in mind that it's not always the biggest incentive package that wins the contract, but the package that provides the most value. In June 2009, V-Vehicle Company (VVC), a new American car company headquartered in San Diego, announced it would build a $248 million assembly plant in Monroe, Louisiana. The project will create over 1,400 direct jobs at an average annual salary of nearly $40,000, plus benefits.

"In the end, there were several states that met our criteria and had very large incentive packages," comments V-Vehicle Company's CEO and founder Frank Varasano. "In fact, Louisiana did not have the largest incentive package. However, because of incentives like the FastStart program, we knew we could identify and train the right people who will ultimately be a large part of our success. It was the conviction that Louisiana could provide this work force that sealed the deal."

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