FOLEY - The Gateway Initiative team is now located in a new building, allowing them to expand their partnerships. Since relocating in summer 2020, Gateway has formed a partnership with Coastal …
FOLEY - The Gateway Initiative team is now located in a new building, allowing them to expand their partnerships. Since relocating in summer 2020, Gateway has formed a partnership with Coastal Alabama Community College, which has opened doors to new opportunities.
Gateway Initiative, a collaboration between the South Baldwin Chamber and Coastal Alabama Business Chamber, was designed to grow the local workforce and give employees the chance to learn new skills, grow in their current field, or find their passion no matter what their age. There are currently over 70 investors.
“It’s been a dream for a long time that we would be able to take individuals who were struggling to find work or to find meaningful work and help them find the things that make their life meaningful,” said South Baldwin Chamber President/CEO Donna Watts. “Here in South Baldwin County, I think we’ve developed a model to help us make that happen for individuals. I know doing it one at a time is a hard thing to do, but sometimes that’s what it takes to make it really work.”
Dean of Workforce Development at Coastal Alabama Josh Duplantis says it was thanks to the partnership with the Gateway Initiative that his team found the perfect space to begin offering adult education.
“I think what distinguishes our program is that we don’t only focus on GEDs,” said Duplantis. “We want to do things for our customers to help identify them in the job market. We worked towards that initial credential - it just so happens they have to get that GED along the way … We want our folks to walk out of our facility with not just a GED, but something they can put on a resume, something they can hand to an employer so they can say ‘I’m ready to come to work.’”
OSHA courses and ServSafe courses are common elements for the adult education program. Another popular course is ESL (English as a Second Language), which Duplantis said he recently was told to order six new tables and 27 extra chairs for to accommodate the class size.
Another huge part of the Gateway Initiative involves apprenticeships. In 2019, thanks to efforts by the Gateway team, Tourism and Hospitality careers were added to the list of recognized apprenticeships after Gateway Director of Talent Development and Recruitment Ed Bushaw met with SAWDC.
“There are very wonderful incentives for businesses right now to get involved in apprenticeships,” Bushaw said. “There’s an Expansion Grant going on right now where businesses that put apprenticeships in place can get 50 percent wage reimbursement for 480 hours.”
Since getting the apprenticeships in Baldwin County going, other strides have been made. This includes Francis Holk-Jones, State Farm becoming the first apprenticeship model to be used in an insurance agency in the area.
“I’m very proud of the work we’ve got going on in Foley, I think we’re making a significant impact with businesses from startup through continuous improvements, and again, lots of tools in the tool bag with our partners,” Bushaw said.
The Gateway Initiative is working on a virtual customer service course to be premiered within its Gateway Training Academy. The team aims to have it complete by Memorial Day.
For more information on the Gateway Initiative, visit https://gatewayinitiative.com.