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Ainsworth’s workforce commission recommends creating cabinet-level agency, other investments

Alabama Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth’s 21st Century Workforce Commission released its findings on Monday.

The topline recommendation from the report is the creation of a cabinet-level coordinating agency to be called the Governor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development.

The report also calls for increased investment in areas highlighted by many of the state’s pre-existing workforce development initiatives; technical education, STEM classes for K-12 students, coordination between government and industry, and bringing people back into the workforce through retraining.

“We developed this report as an action plan and a call to arms, and not something that should be tossed on a shelf to gather dust,” Ainsworth said in a release from his office.

Ainsworth served as chair of the commission which consisted of four lawmakers from each chamber of the Alabama legislature; Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Birmingham), Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva), Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham), Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Red Hill), Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper), Rep. Rod Scott (D-Fairfield) and Rep. Rich Wingo (R-Tuscaloosa).

The report cites “a wide perception of duplication of services, turf issues, confusion about respective roles, and some unwillingness to effectively partner,” among Alabama’s current workforce development programs as evidence for the need of a new Office of Talent and Workforce Development.

(Screenshot/Lt. Gov. Office report on Alabama Workforce Development)

Notably, the new Secretary of Talent and Workforce Development would have coordinating authority over the workforce development-related programs in other cabinet agencies. It would not have purview over the entirety of any of the organizations in the chart above.

The agencies that would have some of their programs subject to coordination with the new Secretary include the Community College System, Department of Commerce, Early Childhood Education, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Human Resources and the Department of Labor. Ainsworth’s report calls that group the “Tier 1 Board.”

Under the proposal, the Tier 1 agencies would work directly with the new secretary and “be required to agree on an annual workforce development allocation budget” that they would submit to the governor’s annual budget.

The report cites the Kentucky Education & Workforce Development Cabinet as a template.

Other “Tier 2” agencies that would provide “recommendations and expertise” to the Secretary are; the Department of Medicaid, Department of Corrections, Department of Rehabilitation Services, Department of Mental Health, Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, Department of Youth Services, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Department of Senior Services and the Office of Information Technology.

The report also provided several specific recommendations for how Alabama could spend money to make an impact on its workforce in the short term;

  • $25 million for the Alabama Community College System to invest in machinery and equipment so students can train for 21st-century manufacturing jobs.
  • $15 million in supplemental funding for career technical education at local school systems that Regional Workforce Councils would certify as area appropriate
  • $8 million to hire more career coaches
  • $6 million in grants innovative regional workforce programs
  • $4.5 million for recruiting out-of-state talent to Alabama
  • $500,000 to create an online internship program in partnership with the state’s business community
  • $500,000 to study the reinvention of career centers.

“This detailed report is Alabama’s blueprint for preparing its citizens to fill long-lasting, well-paying, 21st Century jobs,” Ainsworth commented. 

“I will be pushing and prodding every level of state government to implement these recommendations so we can position Alabama for continued economic success,” he added.

The public can read the full report here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@new-yhn.local or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.