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Not online: Coronavirus puts some workforce training on hold 

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

How do you teach welding from a video screen?
How do you train a worker on an intricate, proprietary robot via distance learning?

Before the coronavirus outbreak shut down many of the state’s large employers last month, Alabama Industrial Development and Training agency, the department of commerce’s worker recruitment arm, was searching for and training about 30,000 workers for 133 manufacturers in about three dozen counties. 

“Most are hunkering down,” said AIDT Executive Director Ed Castile said last week. With the exception of a handful of companies, training at AIDT facilities has stopped, at least the hands-on, in person work.

“We’re trying to figure out all the ways we can do things, virtual classes rather than working on a piece of equipment,” Castile said. 

Similarly, the cancelation of in-person classes at Alabama’s about two dozen community colleges has moved course work online. System leaders say students whose hands-on classes can’t be done virtually will get to make them up later, at no cost to them.

“Some of the courses, like welding, it’s hard to do those online,” Northeast Alabama Community College President David Campbell told Alabama Daily News.

Community colleges ended on-campus instruction March 17, more than halfway through the semester. Campbell said that at his college, many students had already gotten in most of their skilled-trades labs or clinical requirements for nursing students. Campbell said staff looked at each program and course to identify students who would need to make up lab work.

“We’re really student sensitive, and we want them to get what they need,” Campbell said.

Rachel Adams, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Community College System, said the system’s intent is that any student not able to complete their labs as part of their course assignments for the spring semester due to COVID-19 restrictions will be able to do so when facilities open again at no cost to them.

Adams said no decision about whether ACCS campuses will reopen for in-person classes has yet been made.

Likewise, Castile said when given the all clear from state leaders, AIDT will again start training the workers it had recruited.

“Wherever we stopped the process, that’s where they’ll start again,” Castile said. “It’s like we hit the pause button.” 

On Saturday, a statewide stay home order went into effect for all of April, requiring people to remain in their places of residence except for certain circumstances or unless their work is “essential.”

Though many of AIDT’s largest customers, including auto manufactures, closed temporarily last month, Ivey’s order allows for work at many industries, including car makers and suppliers and airplane and ship manufacturers.

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