Career expo aims to build future workforce in West Alabama – Tuscaloosa Magazine

Employers in West Alabama have said they face challenges in filling job openings because of a shortage of skilled workers. Since these challenges persist, Tuscaloosa County leaders have worked to provide students with first-hand experience that will ease their path into the workforce.
More than 4,000 ninth-grade students from West Alabama will be invited to Shelton State Community College this fall for the annual West Alabama Worlds of Work (WOW) Career Expo. The expo will allow students to discover high- paying, competitive career opportunities while addressing workforce needs in the region.
This year’s event will be held Oct. 13-14 on the Martin campus of Shelton State Community College, 9500 Old Greensboro Road. This will mark the first in-person career expo in two years. In the last two years, the event was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Students will explore various “worlds” or industry sectors, where they will meet employers and engage in hands-on activities. About 135 employers will represent Industries including manufacturing, education, healthcare and more.
“It’s like the Disney World of Workforce,” said Donny Jones, executive director of West AlabamaWorks! and chief operating officer of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. Information about the event is online at
WOW is a hands-on, non-traditional, fun and educational way for students to explore different job industries in the region, Jones said.
For instance, a student who is interested in the health care field could have the opportunity to simulate CPR on a specially designed mannequin, while a student interested in robotics could have the opportunity to operate a robot.
Activities will also be available for teachers, school counselors and parents.
The two-day event will also include a component for high school students. WOW Varsity will be held from 5-7 p.m. Oct. 13 for students in 10th through 12th grades. Students and their parents will have the opportunity to talk with industry leaders and learn more about job and education opportunities. A free meal will be available to the first 2,000 guests and one student will win a free semester of tuition at Shelton State or Bevill State community colleges.
Jones said he believes it’s important to get students thinking about the workforce at an early age to help ensure success.
“There’s just different pathways that people don’t really know. And so that’s what we’re really introducing our kids to is there’s different ways to get to different points in your career,” Jones said.
“What we’re trying to make sure of is that our students in our region actually have multiple options so they know the possibilities and then help coach them through that. So none of our kids are walking across the stage and getting their diploma … and not knowing what the next step in their life is,” Jones said.
WOW is a project of West Alabama Works, Region 3 Workforce Development Center and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. The program was founded in 2015 with a mission to get students familiar with high-demand, high-wage opportunities available in West Alabama.
Attendance at the expo will be available for students within the nine-county workforce development region, which includes Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Marengo, Pickens, Sumter and Tuscaloosa counties.
Reach Jasmine Hollie at [email protected]


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