Commission transforming workforce development initiatives

Published 4:13 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

On Oct. 18, Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth’s Commission on 21st Century Workforce met in Birmingham and prepared recommendations aimed at transforming Alabama’s current workforce development initiatives.

Representative Kelvin Lawrence, a member of the commission, was present for the session and pointed out that the time is right to lay a future for Alabama’s workforce system.

“No matter what metric you look at with regard to labor force participation, Alabama is approximately 5% below the national average,” said Lawrence. “The time is now for the state of Alabama to make improvements to our workforce system that can see us compete with other states when it comes to having a robust, well-trained workforce.”

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In a recent media release, Ainsworth said a coordinated effort is vital to workforce development.

“When you look at all that our state has to offer, you begin to realize that with an aligned and centrally coordinated plan for success, Alabama is primed to be the workforce engine of the Southeast,” Ainsworth said.

Created by the Legislature in 2019, the commission is charged with charting a path to improving workforce competitiveness and raising Alabama’s low labor force participation rate.

“It has been a privilege to work with this fantastic group of leaders, both elected and in the business community, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of Alabama’s workforce system as well as needed improvements,” Ainsworth said. “We need to be able to effectively recruit, train and employ Alabamians for the in-demand jobs of today and the jobs of the future.”

In addition to Ainsworth and Lawrence, members of the commission are Alabama Power Company CEO Jeff Peoples, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative CEO Gary Smith, State Senators Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook), Donnie Chesteen (R-Dothan), Linda Coleman Madison (D-Birmingham), and State Representatives Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn), and Debbie Wood (R-Valley).

House Ways and Means Education Committee Danny Garrett said initiatives must be aligned with business and industry needs. He emphasized the need a “quarterback” to ensure coordination on workforce development efforts. 

“The talent and abilities valued and required by employers continue to rise and change, and our talent pipeline and our education and workforce training programs must improve to meet those challenges,” he said. “We also need to have a dedicated cabinet agency as a ‘quarterback’ to make sure the state’s workforce development programs are aligned and coordinated. This will improve outcomes and reduce the burden on the taxpayer.”

The commission’s recommendations will go before the Governor and Legislature prior to the 2024 Legislative Session.

“We are going to fix this,” said Ainsworth.