It was a packed house at the Embassy Suites in Montgomery when Gov. Kay Ivey hosted the first Pathways to Careers summit last month. The event focused on uniting business men and women, educators, agency officials and others to discuss and share platforms for training the state’s future workforce to meet industry needs for qualified candidates.
Secretary Greg Canfield, Alabama Department of Commerce, touted workforce development as the key in recruiting companies such as Mazda-Toyota and Amazon.
“As a state, we are truly aligned in this endeavor,” he said.
One of those keys to alignment is Apprenticeship Alabama, an AIDT program that unites post-secondary students with businesses. The student attends college (paid for by the business) while working and earning a wage in his/her field of choice. The participating industry gets a tax credit and the ability to grow its own workforce.
Another one of the day’s panels focused on aligning work-based learning programs with workforce needs.
“Everything is changing rapidly. But, we customize our programs to wrap around industry’s needs,” said Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce and director of AIDT. “The best recruits (for businesses) we see are high school career tech and two-year college students. It (the Alabama Community College System) is helping us provide a workforce pipeline, and K-12 feeding into the ACCS is a plus.”
Tommy Glasscock, assistant state superintendent/career and technical education for the Alabama State Department of Education’s workforce development division, added another approach would also be beneficial. “The regional workforce councils will be valuable in helping us collect data for Perkins V, which now requires areas to identify the high-wage, high-skill, in-demand occupations so that local colleges and school systems can tailor their programs to match. The needs assessment will also look at strategies to address the needs of underserved populations to identify ways to close their performance gaps.”
Other featured speakers also spoke about aligning education with workforce needs.
According to ALSDE Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey, this has already begun in the K-12 system. “We are doing a number of things to build our foundation. We have reading and math initiatives in place. We are turning these students into being workforce-ready, and we are modernizing our career technical education programs.”
ACCS Chancellor Dr. Jimmy Baker said that the paradigm of everyone needing to attend a four-year institution has to shift. “We must change the attitude of what it means to be a worker.”
Other speakers included Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington, who gave an update on the state’s low unemployment rate, and Nichelle Nix, director of the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, who provided information about STEM apprenticeships with Alabama’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
You may also want to watch WSFA‘s coverage of the summit.