Alabama’s new structure for producing a qualified workforce is focusing on an ambitious target set by Gov. Kay Ivey.
The Alabama Workforce Council and AlabamaWorks held the second annual Alabama Workforce Conference in Hoover this week. Whereas last year was more focused on standing up the seven AlabamaWorks regions and aligning the education, civic, government and business resources at each, this year was more about sharing best practices and promoting what’s working.
Finding things that work is important if officials are going to meet Ivey’s target in six years.
“Through the Alabama Workforce Council, we will continue enhancing workforce development programs so that by year 2025 … we will better equip some 500,000 more Alabamians to meet current and future needs of business and industry,” Ivey said.
That means that 300,000 Alabama workers need some sort of post-high school degree or certification and the state must also replace 150,000 or so workers who are expected to retire in that time frame.
One person who is well aware of that goal and the ticking clock is Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce Workforce Development Division.
“It sounds like, because it is, a bit number and a huge goal to meet,” Castile said. “But we can do it. We’re confident we can do it.”
Castile said the development of AlabamaWorks and the regional councils three years ago is already showing positive signs.
“It’s done exactly what we thought it would do,” he said, by bringing education and worker training resources into a more direct line of addressing needs of local businesses.
“We’ve got almost more jobs than we have people to offer but, with some skill, everybody who wants to work can find a job,” Castile said. “And a good one.”
Castile said roughly 43 percent of Alabama’s workforce has a post-high school diploma or certification. To meet the governor’s charge, closer to 61 percent of the workforce will need to get to those levels of training.
By listening to what business owners want in a workforce, the education and worker training programs can target specific needs.
“It’s a daunting task. Alignment is key to it,” Castile said. “Having the customers – the businesses – tell us what the need is, and then all of the resources moving in that direction and following that advice and making them happen, we will make it. But we have to do it that way.”
Ivey said changes to the state education system are designed to produce graduates who are more workforce ready.
“Now is the time to prepare our workforce for the role of tomorrow,” she said. “Workforce development begins with a strong foundation. So, whether a person lives in Foley, Alabama, or in Camden, Alabama, or in Huntsville or in Birmingham, having a quality education can be everyone’s ticket to success.”