Commission recommends workforce development initiatives

Published 7:49 pm Saturday, February 3, 2024

The Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on 21st Century Workforce, created by the Legislature and led by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth released a landmark plan Jan. 22 recommending fundamental transformation of Alabama’s workforce development initiatives.

Rep. Kelvin Lawrence (D-Hayneville) serves on the commission and said commissioners are working to address workforce development concerns.

“We’ve been doing a lot of great work on this commission, recruiting and engaging with two-year community colleges about dual enrollment for high school students and taking a holistic approach to how we address concerns like the labor shortage,” Lawrence said. “Prior to COVID, the unemployment rate was high. Now we have the jobs, but we don’t have the labor force to fill them.”

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Lawerence joined Ainsworth, Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed, Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and Business Council of Alabama President and CEO Helena Duncan at the announcement of the group’s recommendations.

“Alabama is the economic recruitment leader of the Southeast, but to maintain our competitive edge we need historic, transformative changes to our workforce development system,” said Ainsworth. “Our commission has created a plan to align our job training efforts so Alabama can seize new opportunities and connect all Alabamians with 21st century employment. With these reforms, we can make Alabama’s workforce development the envy of the nation.”

Reed said transforming the state’s workforce development initiatives will be a major priority in the upcoming legislative session that begins Feb. 6.

“We need to effectively recruit, train and employ Alabamians for the in-demand jobs of today and the jobs of the future,” said Reed. “The Lieutenant Governor and commission members can be proud of the work they’ve done. We can get people off the sidelines, back into the labor force and into skilled jobs that will provide meaningful careers and family-sustaining incomes.”

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 Dan Roberts, Donnie Chesteen, Linda Coleman-Madison, and April Weaver, and State Representatives Danny Garrett, Joe Lovvorn and Debbie Wood.

“It has been an honor to serve with such a knowledgeable and engaged group of leaders who are dedicated to improving our state,” said Ainsworth. “Our work does not end with this report but when these reforms become law and change Alabama for the better.”

The Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on 21st Century Workforce, includes the following recommendations:

  • Merge unaligned and duplicative workforce development agencies to Consolidate the Department of Commerce’s Workforce Development Division, AIDT and the Department of Labor into a new Alabama Workforce Authority (AWA) to be led by a Cabinet-level Secretary of Workforce Development appointed by the Governor;
  • Collaboration with Alabama employers – A nine-member board of directors will advise the Governor and Legislature on workforce priorities and help hold state agencies accountable;
  • Develop a regularly updated plan for how state agencies coordinate the recruiting, training and employment of Alabamians;
  • Accountability – Measure the success of the state’s workforce-related agencies;
  • Highlight the value of Career and Technical Education (CTE) by developing a diploma pathway to support high school students’ access to skills training;
  • Increase and centralize funding within the AWA for recruiting disconnected and underemployed individuals; 
  • Seek to address barriers to employment by centralizing funding for non-governmental organizations that provide services to job seekers and coordinating their efforts across the Alabama workforce development system;
  • Remove barriers and restrictions that prevent former, active and reserve military members from best utilizing the funding they are entitled to for training that leads to meaningful careers;
  • Develop tax credits that incentivize employers to fund childcare and incentivize childcare providers to expand access and quality; 
  • Empower law enforcement, district attorneys and judges to develop or expand low-cost and no-cost programs that help individuals access treatment and recovery programs without negatively impacting their earning potential and career options; and
  • Housing Tax Credits – The tax credit will serve as a catalyst for funding the construction and refurbishment of workforce housing units.