1 year ago

ALABAMA WORKS: Leaders launch major effort to connect employers to skilled workers

Zeke Smith, executive vice president at Alabama Power Co. and chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council.
Zeke Smith, executive vice president at Alabama Power Co. and chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala — Alabama business, education and workforce training leaders on Tuesday announced a major step in transforming the state’s workforce development efforts into one unified system.

The new system, AlabamaWorks, will seamlessly link employers looking for skilled workers with Alabamians seeking jobs or job training. Leaders say it’s the result of an ambitious, business-driven initiative and partnership between the private and public sectors.

At events in Montgomery and Birmingham, members of the Alabama Workforce Council unveiled the new AlabamaWorks name, logo, website and organizational structure for workforce development in Alabama. Zeke Smith, executive vice president at Alabama Power Co. and chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council, said the goal is to transform Alabama’s workforce development system into the best in the country in meeting the needs of businesses and job seekers.

“The Alabama Workforce Council and our partners are focused on helping transform the state’s workforce system to dramatically improve the livelihoods for millions of Alabama families for years to come,” Smith said. “We are doing that today by providing a tool to match the needs of employers with job seekers across our state to grow our economy and raise the standard of living for Alabamians.”

Today’s announcement marked a major milestone in the unification of Alabama’s workforce system, bringing together key components of the K-12 and two-year college systems, state workforce training and placement services, and industry. AlabamaWorks will more easily connect businesses with job seekers and help prepare workers by linking them to career and job training opportunities. Over the course of the next year, each of the state’s seven newly restructured Regional Workforce Councils will integrate its services into the new AlabamaWorks brand.

Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Department of Commerce and executive director of Alabama Industrial Development and Training (AIDT), said the effort to transform the state’s workforce system started several years ago with the state’s economic development strategic plan, known as “Accelerate Alabama.” He credited the leadership of Gov. Robert Bentley for ordering the development of the plan, business, education and workforce development leaders for working together on it, and the Alabama Legislature for funding it.

From the Accelerate Alabama plan was born the Alabama Workforce Council, Castile said, which made several recommendations based on information from businesses and Alabamians across the state to meet the job, education and training needs of the state.

“Among the recommendations was a branding and marketing campaign,” said Castile. “So as we come together today to show you our dynamic plan, we want to make sure the world knows that Alabama works.”

Bob Allen of IDEAS, a media and experience design company based in Orlando, Fla., hired to develop the plan, explained the months-long research and work that went into creating AlabamaWorks.

“The real reason you have such a robust, new workforce brand and workforce system in Alabama is because of Alabamians,” Allen said. “We got to go across the state, talking to thousands of Alabama — students, teachers, higher-ed educators, workforce professionals, industry and business leaders. Remarkably, there’s a strong and unified voice in Alabama that says, ‘Yes, we want to do this, we are committed to it, we are willing to do what’s needed to transform the state.”

George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama and vice chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council, said the council made 10 funding requests to the Alabama Legislature, and “we were 10 for 10.”

“That demonstrates that we have the cooperation and support of education, business and industry, political leaders and everybody else connected. Why? I think the answer is obvious. Workforce development is critical to our existing industry. It is critical to economic development in the state,” Clark said.

The Birmingham announcement was held at Lawson State Community College’s Center for Automotive Excellence, which features robotics and “mechatronic labs” and helps trains technicians and other workers in technical fields.

Jeff Lynn, senior executive director of workforce and economic development for the Alabama Community College System, noted the venue and praised the partnership that community colleges have with of K-12 schools, the departments of Commerce and Labor, AIDT and business.

“What a great group, sitting down, solving problems, doing things that people typically don’t think government do well, collaborating, working together to help a great program work for our citizens,” Lynn said. “If you look at the jobs that we’re creating, in the past and in the future, all those jobs require at least a high school education or GED and postsecondary. So that’s where our community college programs come in. We get to play the fun part. We get to go meet the companies and find those programs, develop world-class education and trade programs that deliver more trained employees for our companies.”

Castile said the backbone of AlabamaWorks will be the seven local Regional Workforce Councils, local Alabama Career Centers and the new website, AlabamaWorks.com. “Our system is driven by local businesses and will therefore be responsive to the current and future needs of businesses in Alabama. Each Regional Workforce Council will be able to focus on the business sectors within its geographical area,” he said.

In a statement, Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said today’s announcement is about more than a new brand and logo. “It’s about taking Alabama to the national forefront of workforce development so that every person in Alabama who wants to find a job can, and so that every employer that comes to Alabama will be able to hire the skilled workers it needs. We truly believe that we are building a system that will soon become a national model.”

Fitzgerald Washington was working in the private sector with Buffalo Rock when the was named to the Alabama Workforce Council and later appointed by Gov. Bentley to serve as secretary of the Alabama Department of Labor. His department manages 48 career centers throughout the state that offer numerous job search resources to both job seekers and employers, but he said some citizens are unaware of those services.

“What a monumental day today is. I can’t tell you how excited I am about the announcement of AlabamaWorks and the Alabama workforce system,” Washington said. “Our workforce system in the past has been somewhat fragmented. Now, we have a system through AlabamaWorks that’s going to bring all these resources together to make sure that we get those resources to the people who have the greatest needs and move our workforce system forward.”

Deputy State Superintendent Philip Cleveland of the Alabama State Department of Education also welcomed today’s announcement. “Our K-12 system is greatly expanding the dual-eligible curriculum that allows high school students to graduate with the skills needed for one of the high-wage, high-skill jobs of the future. This will continue to grow as an important part of our Alabama workforce system,” Cleveland said in a statement.

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43 mins ago

Judge tosses charge accusing ex-warden of leaking to blogger

An Alabama judge is dismissing criminal charges accusing a former jail warden of illegally leaking information to a blogger critical of a sheriff.

The Decatur Daily reports that a judge dismissed the charge of computer tampering at the request of former Morgan County jail warden Leon Bradley after several days of testimony.

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Bradley was fired in October by Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin. His lawyers claimed Franklin and three employees lied to get warrants and have Bradley arrested.

The blogger’s grandson testifies that Franklin threatened to arrest him and derail his plans to join the Army if he told anyone about being a confidential informant or didn’t provide information harming his grandmother.

Two law enforcement officers testify Franklin asked them to issue search warrants they believed unjustified.

Franklin denies wrongdoing.

(Copyright Associated Press 2018)

1 hour ago

Steve Marshall and Troy King most well-known, well-liked Republican candidates for Alabama attorney general, according to poll

New polling obtained by Yellowhammer News offers a peek into Alabama’s attorney general race, with the edges in the Republican primary bid at-the-moment being given to current Attorney General Steve Marshall and former Attorney General Troy King.

The poll, conducted by WPA Intelligence, found that 24 percent of Republican primary voters have a favorable view of Marshall and 26 percent have a favorable view of King, while 5 percent have an unfavorable view of Marshall and 15 percent have an unfavorable view of King.

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The other two Republicans running, former U.S. Attorney Alice Martin and Judge Chess Bedsole, have 13 and 8 percent favorability, respectively.

King has the highest name identification at 61 percent, with Marshall’s at 43 percent. Martin’s name identification is at 32 percent and Bedsole’s at 28 percent.

(WPA Intelligence)

Survey Methodology: WPA selected a random sample (n=500 Republican primary voters) of registered voters from the Alabama voter file using Proportionate Probability Sampling (PPS) who were contacted by phone April 15-17, 2018. The sample was stratified based on geography, age, and gender, and the study has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent in 95 out of 100 cases.

The primary election is on June 5, and the state-wide general election is November 6.

Rep. Byrne: A tax code that works

Each April, Americans across the country face great frustration and inconvenience in filing their taxes.

Fortunately, this Tax Day marked the last time Americans would file their taxes under the old tax code. Thanks to passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Americans will now have a simpler and fairer tax code. I was proud to work with President Trump to reform our tax code and make the process easier for taxpayers.

Starting next year, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will bring Americans relief when filing their taxes under a more streamlined, straightforward tax code. However, making the overall filing process simpler and more convenient was just one of the many ways we worked to create a tax code that benefits and works for the American people.

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One of the most important reforms under the new tax code is the doubling of the standard deduction. This provision increases the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. Combined with new lower tax rates, almost every Alabamian should see a tax decrease.

Also important, the new tax code prioritizes American families by doubling the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child. It is no secret that raising a family is not cheap; so, this increase provides additional support for families struggling to pay for childcare and other necessary expenses associated with parenting.

To provide even more support for families, the bill preserves the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, as well as the Adoption Tax Credit. Even more, the bill makes improvements to saving options for education by allowing parents to use 529 accounts to save for elementary, secondary, and higher education.

Most people will not have to wait until the next tax season to see the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Already, many hardworking Alabamians are seeing more money in their paychecks each month. That means your hard-earned money is ending up back in your pockets, rather than the coffers of the federal government.

Tax reform has also helped spur overall economic growth. Our bill helps to level the playing field for American businesses, creating new job opportunities and finally causing wages to rise after years of stagnation.

Many businesses have also handed out bonuses and improved benefits to their workforce. Since passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, I have had the pleasure of personally handing out bonus checks at multiple businesses in Southwest Alabama. Trust me, these workers were thrilled with the extra money.

We aren’t stopping now either. The House passed a package of bills last week to help cut down on identity theft and to hold criminals accountable for IRS scams. It is important that these crooks be punished for trying to defraud hardworking Americans, including our nation’s senior citizens.

Equally important, the House also passed bills to make the IRS more efficient, effective, and accountable. The IRS should be a customer-friendly organization that responds to the questions and concerns of the American people.

In the past four months, we have seen tremendous growth right here in Southwest Alabama because of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. From our small business owners handing out bonus checks to our single-income families taking home extra money in their paychecks, evidence shows that allowing Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money is a huge boom for our economy.

As we bid farewell to an old, outdated tax code, Americans can rest easy knowing they have a simpler, fairer tax code to work with in the future.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

2 hours ago

Abortion is not a human right, says State Dept. official

The State Department released its Human Rights Report for 2017 on Friday, and State Department officials acknowledged it purposely left out a section on “women’s reproductive rights,” which had been included in previous reports during the Obama administration, noting that the administration does not consider abortion a human right under international law.

“When the State Department is talking about this represents our values as Americans, the removal of sections on women’s reproductive rights – why is that not included in values as Americans?” a reporter asked State Department officials.

“I’m going to explain why it was removed. It was introduced six years ago into the report. It hadn’t been there before,” Michael Kozak, ambassador for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said.

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“It’s one of the few terms that are used in the report that isn’t derived from an international treaty that has a definition or derived from U.S. law, where there’s a clear definition to the term, and in this case, the previous administration intended it to mean look at the availability of contraception, at the – whether the government tried to impose or coerce people in making decisions about reproduction,” Kozak said.

“In the statements that were made – this was derived from the Beijing Declaration that was done in the ‘90s. At that time, it was very clear and our delegation made a very clear statement that this has nothing to do with abortion. It doesn’t mean abortion,” he said.

Kozak said the use of the term “reproductive rights” means different things to people on both sides of the issue.

“Unfortunately, over the last few years, groups on both sides of that issue domestically have started to use the term, and both seem to think it does include abortion and then argue about it,” he said. “So our thought was let’s just not use a term that has the opposite meaning from the one we intend.

“We went back to the term that’s used in the U.S. statute that requires the Human Rights Report, which is coerced family planning, namely coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization,” Kozak said. “I might mention too, because I went back and looked at last year’s report, the question being asked was, ‘Were there obstacles opposed to getting contraception information and means?’

“The answer in virtually every country was no, there were no obstacles other than, in almost every country, including our own, the availability in rural areas is less than it is in urban areas. But we were taking a lot of space to explain that,” he said.

“So what we’ve done, we’ve kept that information in there. We’ve done it now by a hyperlink. We used to take that information from the WHO report and put it in. We said let’s just use a hyperlink, and then there’s actually more information available that way. So that’s the rationale behind that,” Kozak said.

“It’s not a diminishment of women’s rights or a desire to get away from it; it was to stop using a term that has several different meanings that are not all the ones we intend,” he added.

A reporter later questioned whether Kozak was saying “there are no obstacles for women to get contraception in any country except for if there’s a remote issue.”

“I said with some exceptions, and the exceptions were and still are – and we’ve really gotten at it by flipping back to the original U.S. statutory language. It’s in places like China, where in order to enforce their two – now two-child policy, that there are reports of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization,” Kozak said.

The ambassador said North Korea also engages in forced abortion, although it’s usually used for political punishment. Also in the country of Belarus, women in state hospitals or who are institutionalized are forced to have abortions or if the woman or baby has disabilities.

“In North Korea, where the government also coerces or forces abortion – although sometimes that’s for political punishment rather than family planning, and we uncovered it,” Kozak said.

“So as we were digging through trying to reduce the bulk of some of this report, I found in the old country I served in, in Belarus, that it turns out that the doctors in the state hospitals, and particularly in the institutions there, if they have a woman who is pregnant and who is a woman with disabilities, the doctors insist on an abortion. Or if they believe the fetus has a disability, they’ll insist on an abortion. So we’ve called that out too,” he said.

“So it’s not – those were the cases, though, in the – under the previous formula where you would say there was a restriction on family planning, freedom of family planning. For most countries, it said, there isn’t any restriction except for the ones imposed by economics and rural-urban type thing,” Kozak said.

“So just to be clear just on that, so taking out the language about those cases therefore means that the U.S. doesn’t believe that the inability for women to get an abortion physically or by law is an abuse of human rights?” a reporter asked.

“Correct, under the previous administration and this one and the one before that. We have never taken the position that abortion was a right under – a human right under international law,” Kozak said.

“This is supposed to be internationally recognized human rights, and it’s an issue on which – some countries prohibit abortion. Some countries, like our own, pretty much no restriction on it, and we don’t say one of those is right and one of those is wrong. We don’t report on it because it’s not a human right,” he said.

“It’s an issue of great policy debate. You can have a good discussion, but there’s no internationally recognized standard as to what’s the right treatment, but the other, yes. The – it is internationally recognized that somebody shouldn’t coerce you to have an abortion or force you to be sterilized,” Kozak added.

(Courtesy of CNSNews.com)

2 hours ago

Alabama Waffle House deserves kudos for their handling of #WaffleHouse boycott

Corporate boycotts are all the rage. Last week we have a boycott of the notoriously liberal Starbucks because two men wouldn’t leave when asked and now Starbucks is closing stores to do “implicit bias training”.

In Alabama, a Waffle House in Saraland came under attack after a video showed an intoxicated and angry Chikesia Clemons being arrested for not leaving a restaurant when requested. The evidence indicated the original story about an argument over utensils was a lie. The woman was asked to leave because she was drunk and brought alcohol into the restaurant.  She also reportedly told the staff “Bitch, you don’t know what I’ve got going on. … I may have a gun, I may have anything, I can come back and shoot this place up if I need to.”

In light of this new evidence Waffle House took the anti-Starbucks position:

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Why this matters: The press likes chaos, they thrive off racial chaos, and they are fomenting it at every turn. Most corporations want no part of this. They want controversy to go away and they want to be seen as good corporate citizens, so they take the PR hit and promise to do better if the mob will just stop screaming. Waffle House stood up for the truth here, they supported their employees, they supported law enforcement, and for that they should be applauded.

The details:

— Clemons and two friends were asked to leave the Waffle House after entering with an alcoholic beverage. Her two friends left but Clemons yelled at staff and threatened them.

— When police arrived Clemons refused to leave and then resisted arrest.

— To show her level of intoxication, police released a video of Clemons appearing to vomit into a garbage can during her booking.

— Nothing good happens at a Waffle House after 2 AM. The arrest took place at 2:45 AM.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN in Huntsville.