Job Fair held at WCCS

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 27, 2006

Officials announce business initiative

By Victor Inge

The Selma Times-Journal

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Minge Wright took her time and made her way around the Wallace Community College Selma Gym on Thursday, where opportunities filled the room.

She was among the 1,200 participants and companies represented at WCCS for the Second Annual Black Belt Job Fair. College and elected officials held a news conference across the hall announcing an initiative to enhance business opportunities and the skills of potential employees.

Dr. James Mitchell, WCCS president, said the school’s role in the West Alabama-East Mississippi $15 million WIRED initiative was a matter of perspective.

The grant is for three years, and will be administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. WCCS will be responsible for Dallas, Perry and Wilcox counties, which rank in the top five in the state in unemployment, according to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations.

Mitchell was joined by U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Alabama, State Sen. Hank Sanders, State Rep. Yusef Salaam, and Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr.

Shandra Smith, community entrepreneurial development facilitator, and Felecia Pettway, civic leadership engagement facilitator, explained the four goals of the program, which is a collaborative effort between eight community colleges in Mississippi and Alabama, covering 18 counties in Alabama and 19 Mississippi counties.

The WIRED initiative, which stands for Workforce Innovations for Regional Economic Development, was developed to &8220;build using available assets within its region,&8221; which will be done &8220;through four inter-related goals,&8221; Smith said.

The funds will be used to provide in-kind services to small businesses, and long-term plans are to make assistance greater than that of the Innovation Centre, which provides technical assistance and a place for start-ups to get on their feet, organizers said.

Pettway said the third goal of the WIRED Initiative is to &8220;train capable persons and offer them credentials,&8221; that could be recognized by potential employers.

The goals are shared throughout the 37 counties and the eight community colleges. Sen. Sanders said that when you look at the service area and know of the problems, solutions will take innovation.

Perkins lauded Mitchell for his efforts, saying he &8220;has transformed Walllace Community College into a true community college.&8221;

In the second year of existence, during rainy weather, more than 900 persons showed up looking for jobs. It was the second year for Bill Bezkor of Alabaster with Primerica. He was looking for independent agents to sell life insurance and other financial management products.