Wallace State Community College’s Prepping the Talent Pipeline for Economic Growth and Diversification Planning Project was awarded $23,191 by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The project will assess the current and projected state of automotive manufacturing in Appalachian. The resulting strategic plan will inform WSCC’s educational and capital plan to meet the evolving employment needs of the industry, as demand for autonomous and electric vehicle manufacturing increases. It is also expected to guide the program development of WSCC’s automotive manufacturing-related programs for the next 10 years.
Car manufacturing is evolving. The demand for electric vehicles is on the rise, meaning big changes to how cars are made and maintained. Automation and digitization are already transforming the line processes of established manufacturing plants requiring a new set of skills for current and future employees. All these changes signal an industry disruption is on its way. The Appalachian Regional Commission, in partnership with Wallace State, and members of the automotive industry will conduct a year-long study of these changes to help prepare North Alabama’s manufacturers and their employees for Industry 4.0.
This award is part of a $46.4 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative. POWER targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.
“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure—including broadband access. These investments in our Appalachian coal-impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive.”
Since POWER launched in 2015, ARC has invested more than $284 million in 320 projects across 353 coal-impacted counties. The $46.4 million awarded today is projected to create/retain over 9,306 jobs, attract nearly $525 million in leveraged private investments, and be matched by $59.2 million in additional public and private funds across the Region.
ARC is working with Chamberlin/Dunn LLC, a third-party research firm, to closely monitor, analyze, and evaluate these investments. A new report, published today in conjunction with the announcement, drew on 72 stories representing 44 unique POWER projects funded between fiscal years 2015-2020 to determine the most significant changes that occurred as a result of POWER.
The evaluation found that projects funded through POWER grants met or exceeded targets for jobs retained and/or created, businesses created, workers trained, and revenues increased. Chamberlin/Dunn is continuing to monitor POWER investments and make recommendations to ARC for ongoing programmatic efficiencies.