Alabama Inauguration

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey gives a thumbs-up during Inauguration Day on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Ala., Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (Jake Crandall/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

MONTGOMERY – Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday provided an update for Alabama’s workforce development efforts, according to a press release.

The governor, through her Strong Start, Strong Finish initiative, has made improving Alabama’s education system a top priority for the state. The initiative, announced in July 2017, focuses on three stages of education:

• Early childhood education;

• Computer science in middle school and high school; and

• Workforce preparedness.

This initiative lays the groundwork to support the education to workforce pipeline.

“In order to meet the current and future demands of business and industry, more must be done to develop a workforce development system that offers a seamless educational journey for individuals to enter in-demand career pathways at every stage of life,” Ivey said.

The governor has made it a priority of her administration to create workforce development programs for Alabamians across the state. To accomplish this goal, she recently established the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation, or GOEWT.

“Already, Alabama is taking the lead in workforce development efforts, which catches the attention of companies from around the globe and ultimately provides more opportunities for Alabamians,” Ivey said.

Last month, she signed Senate Bill 295 into law. Sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, the bill expands the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit by providing an additional $500 for hiring in-school youth apprentices. Additionally, SB295 modifies the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit to increase the base tax credit from $1,000 to $1,250. It increases the number of apprentices one employer may claim from five to 10, as well as the tax credit cap from $3 million to $7.5 million. SB295 also establishes the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship.

“Getting both new high school graduates and existing workers prepared for the workforce with certified and marketable skills will not only provide better job opportunities, but also enhanced wages that can have a permanent, positive impact on the worker and their family,” Orr said.

The Alabama Office of Apprenticeship, when officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, will be Alabama’s state apprenticeship agency. The Alabama Department of Commerce will house the agency. The AOA will serve as a registration agency for registered apprenticeships in the state of Alabama.

Other efforts

The U.S. Department of Labor recently selected the Alabama Community College System for a $12 million grant to build its partnership with the National Association of Manufacturers. Industry partners will provide partial matching funds to the institutions to develop in-demand skills as part of their programs.

“Alabama’s 24 community colleges are working every day within their local communities to ensure students, from high schoolers to adults looking to advance their skills, have a pathway to success through education and skills training,” ACCS Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker said. “We are proud that our most recent efforts to expand apprenticeships and work-based learning opportunities for thousands of Alabamians have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. This expansion will help individuals gain the real-world experience that business and industry is seeking as they hire for well-paying, in-demand jobs.”

Additionally, last month the state received a $1.2 million federal grant, expanding funding for state apprenticeships. Coinciding with the federal grant, the Alabama Legislature budgeted $1 million to offset the costs associated with dual enrollment courses and credential fees for apprentices. The grant coupled with the state investment will be used to provide scholarship for a dual enrollment or community college course that is part of the apprentice’s related technical instruction.

“Alabama is a state so full of potential, both in the workforce opportunities we are seeing develop, as well as in the preparedness of its citizens to fulfill those workforce opportunities,” state Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey said. “The aggressive advances we are seeing in workforce development efforts will open doors for professional, economic and industrial growth in our great state. We look forward to the shared vision of Alabama being the hallmark of a state booming with progress, and an education system primed to produce students who are well-equipped to meet the demands of a thriving workforce.”

On June 24, Credential Engine awarded Alabama a $50,000 technical grant to support credential transparency. The Alabama Department of Commerce will serve as the fiscal agent and manager of this project.

Along with the Department of Commerce, the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation and a myriad of state education and workforce development agencies will collaborate to publish all of the certificates, licenses, traditional degrees and non-degree credentials offered in Alabama to the credential registry.