Above: The AIDT Alabama Workforce Training Center in Birmingham trains workers for construction, manufacturing and entertainment industries. (Michael Tomberlin/Alabama NewsCenter)
It’s taken four decades, but Birmingham now has its own permanent Alabama Workforce Training Center (AWTC) and it’s unlike any in the state.
AIDT held an open house earlier this month, declaring the 56,000-square-foot former warehouse at 3500 Sixth Ave. S. open, although it is already training workers for construction, manufacturing and other industries.
Ed Castile, director of AIDT, the state’s leading workforce training agency, said although it has been a long time coming, the Birmingham AWTC is a welcome addition to the 11 other AIDT training sites around the state.
“This is our first time in our 40-plus years at AIDT to have a facility in Birmingham,” Castile said. “We’ve rented space for years off and on, but this is now a fixed-base facility. There is just such a need.”
Castile said the AWTC was put together with partners in the construction and manufacturing industries along with Jefferson State and Lawson State community colleges, the Alabama Technology Network, the Alabama State Education Department and area high schools. It houses representatives of those agencies and an office for Region IV of the state’s Regional Workforce Development Council.
The Birmingham Business Alliance is also a partner in the project.
“The AWTC is one of the greatest assets the state of Alabama can offer the Birmingham business community,” said Brian Hilson, CEO of the BBA. “It fulfills a long-time workforce development need in our community by providing the construction and manufacturing industries – two of our strongest industries – with free training at every level, from basic skills instruction to leadership training.”
The facility, which was donated by Birmingham businessman George Barber, includes shop space, several classrooms, conference rooms and a 300-person auditorium.
The Birmingham AWTC was announced last year and has been simultaneously undergoing improvements while training workers.
Castile said the facility is now the home to Entertainment Media Production & Crew Training (EMPACT) Alabama. Those interested in the entertainment industry can learn everything from building a set to lighting to operating a camera.
“It’s a large area for us right now and Birmingham is fairly central,” Castile said. “There is a good bit of activity in the Birmingham area and Mobile as well. Those jobs are like all jobs. They’re needed and we’re happy to provide the training.”
The EMPACT truck is parked in the AWTC warehouse and is used for training at various sites but also is loaned to production companies needing additional assets in shooting commercials or short films.
Hilson said AWTC is a collective effort where people who saw a need worked together to meet it.
“Its creation was a collaboration by many people that know Birmingham’s business success is critical to the entire state,” Hilson said. “And centralizing AIDT’s film-training arm, EMPACT, in Birmingham will help reach more students and professionals in a growing industry in Alabama.”
Former state Rep. Paul DeMarco, who, along with Rep. Rod Scott, helped bring the facility to Birmingham, said the AWTC is important to recruit and attract businesses to central Alabama.
“We want to make sure they have the workforce and a facility at their disposal to keep their workforce growing and educated and safe so we can continue the renaissance we’re having here in Birmingham,” DeMarco said.
Castile said he believes the AWTC is what it was envisioned to be.
“It’s really become quite the service center for workforce development in the Birmingham-Jefferson County area,” he said.