“Alabama’s Workforce Superhighway”

Alabama’s workforce programs have undergone several changes in the past couple years and to say that this has caused some confusion would be a huge understatement! I liken it to the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act which created the beginnings of the Interstate system that focused on building a system of connected roads that would funnel traffic from smaller roads into safer, more efficient “Super Highways”.

When we look at workforce development in Alabama over the last 50 years, we’ve been a mishmash of programs or smaller roads all leading to the same goal, but having to travel those roads on a wildly divergent path. In a few words I’d like to clear up the confusion and untie the knot related to the programs housed within the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Commerce has two divisions: Business Development and Workforce Development. In the workforce division there are five areas of responsibility: AIDT, WIOA, AWC, RWCs and AOA.

AIDT, is Alabama’s premier workforce training incentive. We offer job-specific training to new and expanding industries in Alabama and expand job opportunities of its citizens. AIDT does this at no-cost to the company or the citizen. In addition, through the use of our Centers of Excellence, AIDT provides “upskilling” for existing companies in Alabama through in-depth training in robotics and automation at the Alabama Robotics Technology Park, Maritime and shipbuilding training at the Maritime Training Center.

The WIOA or Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act is a federal program used to help socially and economically disadvantaged populations and dislocated workers. WIOA funds the One-Stop Career Centers (managed by DOL) and also provides Rapid Response teams to affected plants that are closing. Their goal is to keep as many workers working and retrain, through financial assistance and scholarships, those workers that need new skills to remain viable employees.

The AWC or Alabama Workforce Council is an advisory council whose main mission is to facilitate the strategic workforce agenda across Alabama to ensure that the goals are achieved. The AWC, made up of business and industry leaders, routinely advise and promote legislative matters to continually improve the workforce system in Alabama.

The RWCs or Regional Workforce Councils (7) focus their attention on a more local level. Each council is made up of business and local leaders from their respective counties and are directed to help identify issues in the workforce and plan strategically for how to overcome any obstacles.

Then there is the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship or AOA, originally created by legislation in 2016 as Apprenticeship Alabama. New legislation in 2019 created a state apprenticeship agency that will now serve as the central hub for certifying and managing apprenticeships here in Alabama. AOA will now be able to certify not only Registered Apprenticeship Programs, but the new Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPS). The new IRAPs are for apprenticeships in more non-traditional business sectors such as tech companies or healthcare.

We have taken these five feeder roads and merged them into our “Workforce Superhighway” that ultimately leads the state to the goal of Success Plus, Governor Kay Ivey’s plan to have more than 500,000 credentialed workers in Alabama by 2025. This new crop of workers and those who are looking for a new direction should be able to effortlessly travel the new “Workforce Super Highway” with easy access and exits through the state’s new portal known as AlabamaWorks! Please see www.alabamaworks.com when you are ready.

– written by Ed Castile

Alabama receives Gold Shovel Award for economic development efforts

“Area Development, a national business publication, has selected Alabama for its Gold Shovel Award, recognizing the state’s economic development success in 2018.

The honor follows a record year for Alabama, with companies announcing new facilities and expansion projects involving $8.7 billion in new capital investment. The projects will create an anticipated 17,026 jobs across the state and inject economic vitality into many communities…”

Read more at MadeInAlabama.com

Corbin hired as AlabamaWorks! Public Relations Specialist

AIDT is pleased to announce the hire of Jill Corbin as AlabamaWorks! Public Relations Specialist.

Jill brings over 15 years of experience in communications and marketing to AlabamaWorks! which will be used to further develop brand management and content strategy development. She has helped private companies and public corporations expand their brand while growing their geographic footprint, as well as developed integrated communications plans for non- profits and government agencies.

“With the multiple streams of information AlabamaWorks! is charged with communicating, it became a necessity that we focus on having one voice behind the messaging,” said Ed Castile, Deputy Secretary of Commerce. “Jill, and her many years in communications and social media, fills that role quite well.”

Her expertise in the social and digital media realm include content strategy, social media analytics and traffic generation. She has managed a broad range of communications and branding initiatives for clients in government, education, technology, and media.

Jill’s primary responsibilities include serving as publicist and providing strategic public relations support to the AlabamaWorks! brand. She will also promote brand awareness of AlabamaWorks! and workforce initiatives among all of the government, education, business and private sector entities in the state to help Alabama meet present and future workplace success.

Jill holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Samford University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama Birmingham. She and her husband live in Wetumpka, AL with their twin daughters.

Robotics Technology Park gets new leader to direct strategic upgrades

RTP Photo

RTP 2.0 initiative will prepare facility to meet future training needs

Chuck Ernest photo

The Alabama Department of Commerce and AIDT announced today that Chuck Ernst, a former Honda manufacturing executive, has been appointed to lead Alabama Robotics Technology Park (RTP) as it embarks on a strategic plan to prepare the training facility for new technologies and additional capabilities.

The goal of the “RTP 2.0” initiative is to ensure that the $73 million center located in Tanner is positioned to meet the evolving workforce development needs of Alabama companies as technology brings radical changes to manufacturing techniques.

As part of the initiative, RTP will add needed next-generation technologies, manufacturing simulation areas and training solutions that support key Alabama industry sectors including automotive, aerospace, aviation and logistics.

“Alabama Robotics Technology Park is a unique asset for the state and the manufacturers that utilize this facility to provide cutting-edge training for their workforces,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “The RTP 2.0 initiative will increase our leadership position in advanced job training, even as technology continues to change how factories operate. And, with his experience at Honda Alabama, Chuck Ernst is the perfect choice to direct this effort.”

Ernst, who retired from Honda in 2014 after nearly three decades, will play a key role as plans are developed to advance the park and design its next level of services. He will work alongside RTP’s robotics and automation professions and AIDT leadership as the 2.0 initiative is implemented.

“The opportunity to work with the Alabama Robotics Technology Park as it has developed and matured over the last several years is a career high for me, personally and professionally. We are extremely proud of the RTP as it has served as a great technological resource for Alabama manufacturers as well as the brilliant staff who are the very heart of the work there,” said Ed Castile, director of AIDT and Deputy Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce for Workforce Development.

“We are looking forward to RTP 2.0 as we take the park to the next level with the assistance of Dr. Jay Baron’s strategic planning and the leadership of Chuck Ernst. With Chuck leading the RTP along with our incredible staff, we are confident in the RTP’s ability to assist our Alabama companies in becoming more successful in the ever-changing manufacturing world,” he added.

Baron, the former CEO of the Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology Group at the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research, has provided his expertise for the RTP 2.0 initiative.

Ernst’s assignments at Honda included serving as project manager and operations executive at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, a $2.6 billion assembly plant in Lincoln. He finished his 29-year career with the automaker as the Powertrain Division’s chief engineer at the North American Shared Services Group in Marysville, Ohio.

“The opportunity to join the AIDT team at the Robotics Technology Park and assist the business community in Alabama to study and utilize technology that improves their future competitiveness is a chance of a lifetime for me,” Ernst said. “I can’t wait to get started.”

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) said he is committed to supporting efforts to secure the funding needed to implement any new technologies at RTP, which opened in 2010 and now comprises three buildings for highly specialized, company-specific training.

“By retooling our leadership at the RTP, we are setting the standard of having a nationally recognized reputation for a well-trained and highly skilled Alabama workforce in the usage and repair of robotic technology and advanced manufacturing machinery,” Orr said.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the RTP 2.0 initiative reflects Alabama’s commitment to ensure that manufacturers operating in the state are prepared for disruptive technologies.

“At Alabama Robotics Technology Park, we intend to prepare companies for a new world in manufacturing by providing them with technology and facilities dedicated to research and development, simulation, modeling, product design, and training,” Secretary Canfield said. “Supporting companies in this way creates and preserves jobs, while making Alabama a more attractive location for business.”

Phase 3 of Alabama Robotics Technology Park reopens June 17th

TANNER, AL – On Tuesday, May 21st, 2019, at approximately 11:40 pm CST an 18-wheeler crashed into the Phase 3 building at the Alabama Robotics Technology Park (RTP) in Tanner.  The preliminary investigation into the cause of the crash is that the driver fell asleep. There were no mechanical issues identified with the tractor according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). The crash and subsequent fire caused damage to the facility.  After extensive reviews with the original architects and structural engineers we are pleased to announce that the majority of the building has been cleared for use again.

Disaster recovery services will continue on site for the next few weeks and reconstruction of the front part of the building will proceed on schedule with a full release of the structure back to AIDT and the Robotics Technology Park by August 2019.

FAME Classes, that had been indefinitely on hold, are now back up and students have been notified. All classes that were being held in the Phase 3 facility will be in full swing effective June 17th.

“We are pleased that, after careful inspection, we can resume classes with minimal interruption just a little over two weeks after the crash. That is a testimony to not only the original design of the building, but also the dedication of our staff here at AIDT and the disaster recovery services provided by our contractors.” said Kristi Bain, AIDT Assistant Director for North Alabama.

The Alabama Robotics Technology Park is an Alabama Department of Commerce/AIDT training facility. Consisting of three distinct buildings, the $80-million-dollar park is a one of a kind destination for advanced robotics training in Alabama and the United States.

AIDT Secures Unconditional ISO Certification for 15th straight time.

ISO 9001:2015 image

AIDT, the workforce training agency under the Department of Commerce, has again earned an ISO 9001 certification that provides proven, successful approaches to achieving customer satisfaction and management goals. This marks the 14th straight year AIDT has achieved this designation since the initial certification.

AIDT is the only state agency in Alabama with ISO certification and one of the few around the country. Certification confirms meeting and exceeding international ISO standards that are the foundation for development of quality systems that enables process improvement and boosts effectiveness and efficiency of the system.

“Continuously working to improve our processes and management systems is key to our success,” said AIDT Director Ed Castile.  “At AIDT our product is our people and it shows in the quality of services that we offer. Our staff’s strong desire to provide the best workforce training services to the clients we serve is what makes us second to none.”

The ISO 9001 designation is the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS). Organizations use this standard to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements. In 2005, AIDT was the first state workforce training organization in the world to achieve this certification.


Phase 3 of the Alabama Robotics Technology Park is temporarily closed due to fire damage.

On Tuesday, May 21st, 2019, at approximately 11:40 pm CST an 18-wheeler crashed into the Phase 3 building at the Alabama Robotics Training Park (RTP) in Tanner.  The investigation into the cause of the crash is currently being handled by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). The crash and subsequent fire caused more damage to the facility than previously determined. It was hoped that the facility could be temporarily repaired in a manner that would allow classes to continue without much disruption, but that is not the case.

Disaster recovery services are currently on hold due to an order from the Decatur Fire Marshal not to enter the building. The original architect for the building will be on site Thursday, May 23rd, to inspect the facility. A structural engineer will inspect the facility on Friday, May 24th.  The timeline for repairs is pending reports from both the architect and the structural engineer.

It will take approximately two weeks for the disaster recovery process to be completed once officials allow staff back into the structure.

FAME Classes are currently suspended until further notice. AIDT will send out a notice  with a timeline for classes to resume when the information becomes available. AIDT and RTP would like to thank the cities of Tanner and Decatur, as well as ALEA, for their response to the crash and fire. Their quick assistance and action contained what could have been a much more serious situation.

An update on the process will be provided next week.

Also, please note that the AIDT Alabama Robotics Technology Park is not part of Calhoun Community College.

FAME Launches Rocket City Chapter at the AIDT Robotics Technology Park

Alabama RTP Photo

The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education has launched its latest chapter at AIDT’s Alabama Robotics Technology Park in Tanner / Decatur.

The event was marked with a ribbon cutting, a tour and an informational session.

Toyota has several cooperative students in this new program. Watch here as a company representative and a student explain what the program means to them.

Students photo


You can also view WAFF’s coverage of the event here.

WAFF Screenshot

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. announces the first in a series of job announcements.


Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A., Inc (MTMUS) have announced the first in a series of job announcements for the new $1.6 Billion manufacturing plant located in Huntsville, Alabama.

Facility Maintenance, Multi-Skilled Maintenance as well as Tool and Die Team Members are being sought by the company. Rate of pay is based on experience and skill level, ranging from $23.50 to $33.00 per hour.

Interested applicants should visit: https://www.aidt.edu/jobs to view a full list of required skills and to apply.

Pre-employment training for MTMUS will take place at a temporary AIDT training center while the permanent center is being built on the MTMUS facility campus.

The hiring process for production workers is anticipated to begin in Fall 2019 and continue until the plant is at full capacity. Applications and training will be done on a rolling basis for the company, which has plans to create up to 4,000 new jobs in Alabama.

“Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A., Inc. represents yet another project in a long line of global manufacturers that see the value in Alabama and its citizens. We’re proud to continue our two-decade long partnership with Toyota in this new venture and begin a new partnership with Mazda that will last for years to come.” Ed Castile, Executive Director of AIDT and Deputy Secretary of Commerce for Workforce Development.

The joint venture will have the capacity to build 300,000 vehicles annually, with the production split evenly between the two companies in order to produce a yet-to-be revealed Mazda crossover model and the Toyota Corolla.

Vehicle production is expected to begin in 2021.