ORANGE BEACH - The Gateway Initiative, a collaboration between the South Baldwin and the Coastal Alabama Business Chambers, is a 5-year capital project designed to help the community’s workforce, education and local businesses, and to forge strong bonds and partnerships between other chambers and municipalities. Next year marks the fifth year of the current capital campaign, and the team recently disclosed what will be coming in 2022.
Community College System
Recently, the Alabama Community College System developed the ACCS Innovation Center, which offers online training courses for the state’s most in-demand career fields. In a partnership with the Community College System, the Gateway team worked with local business leaders to create training modules for Food & Beverage and Accommodations & Recreational Services.
“The idea behind that is to put microcredentials together for people and help people build on those credentials through a career path,” said Ed Bushaw, vice president of workforce development. “What we do is take it through pre-apprenticeship, which is the on-the-job training and curriculum training that can be done in high school. That means that at the age of 16 you can start an actual apprenticeship.”
Each module has approximately 17 lessons, with videos roughly a minute in length. The lessons are on an 8th grade learning level and discuss curriculum and applied industry scenarios. The lessons end with quizzes and an assessment. When an industry cluster module is complete, a one-day lab at Coastal Alabama Community College is required.
Typically, courses cost $500 per trainee; however $1 million of funding has been secured by the Alabama Restaurant & Hospitality Association to make the training available free of charge for 500 - 750 people in South Baldwin county.
“Our goal is to add this credential into our pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs as part of the required instruction,” Bushaw said. “Then when businesses hire people on board, you can put them through this 20-hour course and get them excited about a career in the field rather than just a position with your operation.”
Gateway to Career Connections Job Board
A new job board will be launching soon. Tentatively set to go live in January, the customized job board has been built specifically for local businesses in South Baldwin County.
“It’s going to be better, faster, stronger, all those things, because we’re going to own it,” said Penny Hughey, VP of education & programs with Coastal Alabama Business Chamber. “We’re designing this online job board exactly how we need it to be for our community.”
The job board will include resources for those looking for information on how to build a resume and will provide the ability to look for particular jobs in our area. Searches will include full time, part time, seasonal and weekend work.
“This will be open to any seekers anywhere, so anybody from across the country or even out of the country will be able to find it and apply for jobs,” said Hughey. “However, big corporations will not be posting their jobs on there, it’s only going to be our local businesses right here in South Baldwin County, local employers will be the ones using it and driving it from a job standpoint.”
Next capital campaign
As Gateway’s current capital campaign prepares for its final year, the team is already looking ahead to the next one.
“We have Funding Solutions under contract for the next capital campaign, and discovery interviews have begun with businesses and will be wrapping up at the beginning of the year,” said Tyler Morgan, director of career & business development. “Leadership interviews will be next, and then we will evaluate those results and create a new case statement for 2023.”
“Funding Solutions are experts in what they do and they have a model that’s just perfect, I think,” said Donna Watts, CEO/president of the South Baldwin Chamber. “It works well because it gets the feedback from our business leaders, and that’s what we need. We’ve got to see what they need, what they want, what they are seeing in their crystal ball that’s going to be happening in the next 5 years; those are the things that we are trying to get. So Funding Solutions will start building that.”
Watts said the next 5-year campaign’s details should be complete around August 2022.
“It’s not about us, what we want, what we think; it’s about the businesses,” said Greg Alexander, president/CEO of Coastal Alabama Business Chamber. “Thinking back to where we were 5 years ago to where we are now, has every element of it been successful? No. But it has raised the bar an incredible amount. Just the apprenticeships, just the trainings. So if you’re a part of it, remain so. Let’s work together, let’s get this next 5 years going, because I’m telling you, it will take us to a level that we can’t imagine as of right now.”
To learn more about the Gateway Initiative, visit gatewayinitiative.com and follow them on Facebook @TheGatewayInitiative.