BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Site Selection, a national publication aimed at economic development professionals, examined Alabama’s forward-thinking efforts to improve its workforce development programs – an effort led by the Alabama Workforce Council.
Site Selection’s article, titled “Exceeding Workforce Expectations,” notes that Alabama already offers effective workforce education through AIDT, which partners with companies and community colleges to offer training services. But state officials saw the need to go a step further, the magazine reported.
Governor Robert Bentley formed the Alabama Workforce Council, a panel of leaders from every sector of business and industry, in July 2014, giving it a mission: Make recommendations on how Alabama can better prepare its citizens for the technologically advanced jobs becoming more common in all kinds of workplaces.
“The governor recognized the importance of a sustainable, skilled and trained workforce,” the council’s chairman, Zeke Smith, an executive vice president for Alabama Power, told the magazine. “The needs of industry are changing. There are some tried and true skills that have remained the same, but with the advance of technology we have to make sure that we take where we are today — which is very good — and move it even higher.”
Through its work, the council identified several priorities for Alabama:
- Strengthen the alignment between education and industry.
- Support and improve the efforts of the state’s 10 Regional Workforce Development Councils.
- Collect data about workforce needs and put that information into action.
- Expand public-private partnerships to increase the number of apprenticeship, mentoring and scholarship programs.
- Raise awareness about careers in skilled trades.
Smith told Site Selection an important goal of the council is to bring together all elements of Alabama’s education system, from K-12 to the community college system to four-year institutions. “Everybody understands this is about the big picture, not taking anything away from any of our education communities,” he said. “This is about creating a better workforce for the state of Alabama.”
Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield told the magazine that the Alabama Workforce Council represents a substantial development.
“It’s another signpost of our commitment in Alabama to partner with the private sector and address the future workforce needs,” Canfield said. “The skill sets in demand today will change over time and maybe for the first time ever we’re beginning to think more about what we need in the future, five and 10 years from now.”
Read Site Selection’s entire article, which appears in the magazine’s January 2015 issue.