Capstone Teams Help Sustain Rural Alabama Communities with Entrepreneur Training Program

One Capstone project this year is offering people in rural communities in Alabama another way to get through the tough economic times and possibly build a future for themselves through self-employment. The LEARN Program (Launching Entrepreneurs Across Rural Networks) helps dislocated workers (those who are a part of a mass layoff or whose place of employment has closed) in rural Alabama gain the business skills and receive the individual counseling and technical assistance they need to start their own businesses. This program is originated and funded through the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration with additional support from the Alabama Dept. of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

Two Capstone teams started last semester by reaching out to service providers and state agencies to build support and commitment for the program. With the goal of building service provider capacity while integrating to the greatest extent possible with current business processes, the teams created the LEARN Program’s policies and procedures, outreach and training materials, and feedback and tracking mechanisms. They also designed and built LEARN-TRAC, the Capstone-produced online system used for participant tracking, feedback, and performance reporting. Other states implementing similar programs have already shown an interest in using LEARN-TRAC and the program’s outreach and training materials for their projects.

This semester, two teams are continuing work on the LEARN Program. In an innovative partnership with MyBiz and the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund, one team is taking the Core Four business skills training curriculum online to better serve the program’s target population. The other team is rolling out the LEARN Program statewide by training service providers, presenting at economic development events, developing an online business skills assessment tool which will benefit the service provider network, and working to improve and refine the program and the LEARN-TRAC system as the program proceeds.

Alabama is the only state implementing such a program statewide, involving the Rapid Response Team, One-Stop Career Centers, and Small Business Development Centers. The dislocated worker training and counseling efforts are coordinated on a site-by-site basis whenever dislocation events occur. ADECA has indicated an interest in continuing the program after the three-year grant period expires, adding entrepreneurial training to its group of services provided to the state’s workforce.

Capstone Team members on the project are:

Fall 2008: Design: Zac Bragg, Sonya Fowler Brasfield, Frank Burford, Anna Giles, John Holm, Troy Robinson, Matt Wehner (PM). LEARN-TRAC: Blake Burden, Tyler Clark, Danielle O’Gwin, Nathan Parker, Jeremy Threatt, Cody Clark (PM).

Spring 2009: Curriculum: Frank Burford, Ashley Holmes, John Paul Lovoy, Blake Nolen, Satin Watson, John Holm (PM). Implementation: Jacob Bell, Tyler Clark, Anna Giles, Fiona Nguyen, Will Saxon, Kelli Allred (1st year MBA), Matt Wehner (PM)

Faculty Sponsor and Operations Director for the LEARN Program is Shane Givens. Program Executive is Dr. David Hale.

For more information: Shane Givens, Matt Wehner, or John Holm (205) 348-5525

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One response to “Capstone Teams Help Sustain Rural Alabama Communities with Entrepreneur Training Program

  1. Hey Matt,

    This seems like a great initiative for the state! Keep up the good work.

    – David

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