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WCCS Hosts 2nd Annual Black Belt Job Fair

Selma, Al. — 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. "I'm hoping to get hired in the hospital somewhere," said Wright, who was from Selma, after speaking with a Vaughan Regional Medical Center representative. "I have three kids, so I'm hoping to find something that has benefits."

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. "We have to begin to look at economic development as a regional concept," Mitchell said. "I'm very excited about this." 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. Congressman 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 "build using available assets within its region," which will be done "through four inter-related goals," Smith said. "Our first goal is to engage community leadership, which will take some innovative thinking," Smith said. "Our second goal is to spur entrepreneurship." 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 "train capable persons and offer them credentials," that could be recognized by potential employers. "The fourth goal of the program is to energize schools K-12, developing youth programs to build skills," Pettway said. "We understand that everybody is not going to college."

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. "Economic development has been a key issue for me," Sanders said. "When you have an area like the Black Belt, that is without resources, you have to think outside the box." Perkins lauded Mitchell for his efforts, saying he "has transformed Wallace Community College into a true community college."

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. "This is not a job, it's an opportunity," Bezkor said. "We ran out of applications by 10 a.m. We had to run and get some copies. Turnout has been unbelievable."

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George Corley Wallace State Community College (Wallace Community College Selma)
3000 Earl Goodwin Parkway   P.O. Box 2530   Selma, Alabama 36702-2530  
Phone: 334-876-9227   Email: info@wccs.edu
(c) 2007 Wallace Community College Selma

It is the official policy of the Alabama State Department of Education, including postsecondary institutions under the control of the State Board of Education, that no person in Alabama shall, on the grounds of race, color, handicap, sex, religion, marital status, creed national origin, or age, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program, activity, or employment.

George Corley Wallace State Community College (Wallace Community College Selma) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, and Associate in Applied Science Degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the status of Wallace Community College Selma.

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