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TUSCALOOSA, AL — The Tuscaloosa County Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved $175,000 in federal aid money to now be invested in the development of an online jobs portal for area youth, along with additional money going toward the West Alabama Works Workforce Center in Brookwood and other initiatives.
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Probate Judge Rob Robertson, who chairs the Commission, views the investment as a “tremendous opportunity,” especially when considering the timing — when the area has an abundance of open jobs. The funding for the different projects will be reallocated from the county’s portion received from the American Rescue Plan.
What’s more, the measure approved by the Commission will fund summer youth employment programs, in addition to programs providing job training and skills to individuals who were formerly incarcerated and in places where there are high instances of poverty and violent crime.
“Through COVID, there has been a lot of disruption in the labor market,” he told Patch on Wednesday. “I believe there is a lot [for students] to learn, even if it’s part-time … I get the sense are a lot of youth are wandering and working with West Alabama Works, I wanted a game plan for how to reach them”
This push for a uniform approach to bridging the gap separating youth and the labor market culminated in the idea of a youth-focused employment portal. The goal of the portal would be providing direct access for part-time and apprenticeship employment opportunities for local high school and working-age youth.
The portal would also go hand-in-hand with other workforce development efforts made possibile through the county’s partnerships with the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, Shelton State Community College and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International.
The Brookwood Workforce Center is a central component of this effort to move the local economy into the future. Robertson said the facility has been crucial for many who have transitioned to different careers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a lot of opportunity,” Robertson said. “There are a lot of ways to acquire skills … but there is still a disconnect. If folks want to get in the workforce, how do we make that easier for them?”
The timetable for the launch of the online jobs portal is unclear at this time.
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