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Jeff State workforce training program receives $160,000

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

A new workforce development opportunity is coming to Clanton thanks to a $160,000 donation and the work of community partners.

The City of Clanton, Jefferson State Community College Clanton Campus, The Chilton County Industrial Development Authority, the Chilton County Commission, Alabama Rural Economic Center, Dunn University and privately-owned industries in the Birmingham region announced the donation from Economic Development Partnership of Alabama funds during a press conference on Aug. 21.

These funds will purchase a training simulator for workforce development students at Jefferson State’s Chilton-Clanton campus.

“Students can use this simulator and learn how to operate heavy equipment,” Mayor Bobby Cook said.

He said this will create a good foundation for those looking to pursue jobs in this field.

This partnership will continue to work together to see the establishment of a workforce development center as a part of the Alabama Farm Center project, which will include additional training opportunities.

“We are looking forward to it, maybe not this year but the beginning of next year, we will see some movement on it,” Mayor Bobby Cook said.

Discussion had begun about two years ago “about how we could really capitalize on where the Farm Center was being built and really use that for workforce development,” Whitney Barlow, executive director for the Chilton County Industrial Authority, said.

“We are excited to be part of the continued growth in Clanton and Chilton County.  Last year, we announced the City of Clanton will be home of the Alabama Farm Center. Today, we are proud to announce the newest addition to the Center, the Workforce Development Training Center,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “It will provide a venue to foster leadership among our youth while they learn valuable career skills. These education and training facilities are central to the Alabama Rural Economic Center’s mission. We look forward to continue working with Chilton County as we create a stronger Alabama.”

EDPA has also helped fund the establishment of the Jeff State Clanton Campus and the airport expansion. Projects focus on what will have far reaching impact, Wayne McKinnon, business owner and community leader, said.

“Since the beginning discussions of building the Clanton campus, I have known we were distinctively situated to make a positive impact in the state of Alabama,” McKinnon said. “Seeing our campus’s partner into a new project with all of the leaders involved is a pivotal moment for myself and all of the foundational leaders in the City of Clanton.”

Jeff State President Keith Brown thanked the city for its support the past 12 years. In that time, the Clanton campus has had more than 10,000 students from Chilton and surrounding counties.

“This day marks a new chapter for us as we expand our training opportunities into heavy-equipment operations,” Brown said.

This program will be “one of a few in the state, if not the only one in the state,” according to Brown.

“We want to make sure that what we grow is what our industries need,” Barlow said.

This comes from input from people like Chris Stricklin, president of Dunn Investment Company’s Dunn University, and other industrial leaders.

“Today is about being more proactive about how we develop the workforce of Alabama’s tomorrow,” Stricklin said. “This is just the seed.”