1 month ago

Changing lanes on the Alabama Workforce Superhighway

Hello friends and welcome back to the Alabama Workforce Superhighway!

Our last stop was the AlabamaWorks Virtual Workforce Conference in September. The conference gave us a lot to think about on the drive ahead. It was great to be among workforce professionals again to share and discuss where we are as a state and, just from a mental perspective, I needed it! We have so many opportunities staring us in the face that we did not have pre-COVID. The work we have all been doing is more important now than ever before. Did our previous challenges go away due to COVID? Absolutely not!

Our workforce issues may have been “timed out,” or perhaps they were on a break, but those issues continue to be our challenges. So, not only should we remain focused on our Success Plus goal of adding 500,000 workers in our workforce with credentials of value by 2025, we must also help our companies get back to work and work with their current and future employees. We need to make sure they are technically ready for the impending automated world and assist them with all the tech-savvy tools that are being developed as part of Industry 4.0 and the ever-developing “Smart Factory” concepts. Alabama is rapidly moving in this direction and we MUST have the workforce to meet the demands. This is one of the foundations for Governor Ivey’s Success Plus plan. In almost every speech and presentation Governor Ivey delivers, she mentions how absolutely critical our workforce is and that they must be ready for the work we are recruiting into Alabama.

To say 2020 has been strange, would be a colossal understatement and it keeps on giving! 2020 started as a typical year where many were planning and working with high hopes for a productive legislative session, school year or university semester, or simply hoping for a beautiful spring. Little did we know COVID-19 would turn us all inside out and literally stop the world in its tracks.

But, not in Alabama. Yes, it was a kick in the gut and our hearts go out to the many who have suffered or lost loved ones due to the pandemic. But as Alabama usually does, we are fighting back. With good solid leadership by Governor Ivey, an extraordinary Governor’s Office staff, a host of very smart cabinet officers and their respective department staffs, and most importantly, some very focused business leaders making good and sound business decisions, we are leading the nation in many aspects of our recovery.

In addition, as we come out of the pandemic we have a new view of the world and with our innovative hats on, we now look at workforce issues through a new and different lens. Yes, the drivers on the Alabama Workforce Superhighway are focused and determined with many great examples of courageous initiatives to assist our customers, overcome the issues and not only get back to pre-COVID productivity, but be even stronger.

So, what new opportunities has 2020 brought us when it comes to our workforce? Although the pandemic has brought many challenges it has also given us access to many people we did not have access to before. Who are these people? There are thousands who lost jobs that were vulnerable to the pandemic. Retail employees, hospitality and restaurant workers who in some cases were working two and three jobs to make ends meet, now have an opportunity to be trained for a less vulnerable job. Alabama has many jobs available as the world wakes back up. We NEED these people and our Alabama Workforce Stabilization Program is laser-focused on these folks.

In the recent AlabamaWorks Virtual Workforce Conference, we discussed the need for flexibility in order to adapt to change. To be successful in this “new normal” we must prepare our workforce by:

  • Creating new digital models for education and training
  • Upskilling (expand capabilities)
  • Re-skilling (acquire a new or improved skill)
  • Strengthening and enforcing safety measures
  • Reinforcing partnerships and pooling resources
  • Focusing on higher wage jobs
  • Yes, the world has changed, but we in Alabama were already moving in the right direction.

There are many people to thank for our progress and to name just a few: Governor Ivey and her staff set us on a course to meet those needs with the “Strong Start, Strong Finish” education initiative and gave us a strategy for success through the Success Plus plan. Lt. Governor Ainsworth, his staff and the Senate Leadership are very engaged as is the House Leadership with Speaker McCutcheon, budget chairs and other many strong Representatives and Senators across the state. They get it!

Yes, we got this! But, we are nowhere near done and as you already know this work can never stop. To borrow some words from a great song, “we can check out anytime, but we can never leave.” We can want to exit the highway, but we can never stop our drive on the Alabama Workforce Superhighway!

Ed Castile is the Deputy Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, Workforce Development Divison and Director of Alabama Industrial Development Training

1 hour ago

Texas A&M wears down Auburn, wins 31-20

Texas A&M came to Jordan-Hare Stadium and ended a three game losing streak against Auburn, prevailing today 31-20.

From the first drive of the game, the Aggies set the tone, driving straight down the field and taking a 7-0 lead. Auburn would actually manage to take a lead that got to as many as six points in the third quarter, although that seemed to come completely against the flow of play. The Tigers were up 20-14  with 4:16 left in the third quarter after kicker Anders Carlson made a 24-yard field goal.

However, Texas A&M would outscore Auburn 17-0 in the 4th quarter, which led to the eventual 31-20 victory for the Aggies. The eleven point margin of victory for A&M was actually probably a little bit closer than the contest actually was. The Auburn defense never came close to stopping A&M, and the Tigers’ offense underwhelmed on the day as well. Overall, it was a well-deserved loss for Auburn.

Take a below at the three factors that ultimately led to Texas A&M’s 31-20 win over the Tigers.

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A&M Offensive line dominates
The Texas A&M offense line was by far the best unit on the field today. The Aggies O-Line cleared the way for backs to rush for 313 yards on 6.7 yards per carry and only allowed one sack on 23 pass attempts. There were multiple run plays where Aggie linemen opened tractor-trailer sized holes for backs to exploit.

Auburn’s defensive front did not come close to stalemating the Aggies on many individual plays, much less on the whole for the day. The reality that A&M could line up and run straight over, around, and through the Tigers’ defense gave very little hope for Auburn to earn a win today.

Auburn’s defensive front was expected to take a step back from last year’s stellar group, but they were the limiting factor in Auburn’s loss against the Aggies.

No answer for Jalen Wydermeyer
Aggies’ sophomore tight end Jalen Wydermeyer was a matchup nightmare for Auburn today. The 6-5, 255-pound phenom was an effective blocker in the Aggies’ big day on the ground and was also their primary target in the passing game. Wydermeyer caught a 10-yard touchdown pass to start the scoring for the A&M and also scored on a tipped pass that put the Aggies ahead 21-20 in the fourth quarter.

Even aside from the touchdowns, Wydermeyer was able to consistently get open against linebackers and safeties to pick up critical catches to keep drives alive all day. There is no easy answer for how to defend a man that big and athletic, but Auburn certainly didn’t provide one today until it was too late.

Wydermeyer is a great example of how big a mismatch a good tight end can be, and hopefully the Tigers took some notes for how to use them effectively in the future.

The big break that wasn’t
The Auburn defense struggled to stop Texas A&M all day. It was apparent from the first drive that the Aggies were able to get positive yardage every time they ran the ball and were planning on giving quarterback Kellen Mond easy, low-risk pass attempts. That plan and formula were extremely effective all day.

That is why what happened with 13:31 remaining in the fourth quarter was so painful. Following a third down conversion for A&M down to the Auburn 20 yard-line (which may have actually been an incompletion but was never reviewed), Kellen Mond finally made the bad decision that Auburn was looking for all day.

Mond tried to force a pass down the seam to Jalen Wydermeyer, only for Tigers’ linebacker Zakoby McClain to step right in front of the ball for a surefire interception. Improbably, McClain merely deflected the ball instead of an interception, and it careened straight into the hands of Wydermeyer for a touchdown.

There is no way to know what would have happened had McClain held on for the interception, but it would have taken seven points off the board for the Aggies and could have led to more points for the Tigers.

Everyone who watches football knows that the oblong-shaped ball takes strange bounces, and today it went in the Aggies’ favor with just over 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

4 hours ago

Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator sets first Demo Day Dec. 8

The first class of Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator is prepping and finalizing business cases and ideas for its inaugural Demo Day. The Dec. 8 event, at 1 p.m., is an opportunity for the 10 participating startups to pitch their businesses to potential investors across the globe.

“Our first class of companies for the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator has done a tremendous job leaning into the process, refining their respective business strategies and engaging and pulling from the expertise of the vast mentor network the program offers,” said Nate Schmidt, Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator managing director. “There’s a lot of excitement with our Techstars team and the companies around Demo Day. We can’t wait to showcase their innovative and thoughtful solutions for energy and clean tech.”

The event will be held virtually and is open to the public. To register, visit https://techstarsalabamaenergytechdemoday2020.eventbrite.com.

The event also will be available at the link after the live stream for viewing anytime.

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Demo Day will feature the 10 companies of the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator. The companies specialize in technology and business models in the energy sector, including a digital marketplace for the electric wholesale industry, battery storage and microgrid solutions, and smart home software. Here are the companies:

  • Project Canary: Continuous air-quality monitoring and environmental data analytics platform to help solve climate change, from Denver, Colorado.
  • Sync Energy: Simplifies access to artificial intelligence for energy analytics, forecasting and loss prevention, from New York City.
  • Ashipa Electric: Microgrid solutions provider and developer, from Birmingham.
  • Virimodo: Carbon and energy monitoring platform to help building owners go green, from New York City.
  • Con.doit: Platform for electrical systems analysis and failure prediction, from Birmingham.
  • Resilient Power Systems: Building block to reduce grid infrastructure upgrade costs related to electric vehicles and clean energy, from Atlanta.
  • EnergyHawk: A SaaS mapping platform that uses satellite imagery and predictive analytics to generate energy assessment profiles for commercial and industrial facilities, from Boston.
  • TruSpin: Large-scale producer of a rare material used to affordably increase the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, from Birmingham.
  • ShipShape AI: A predictive maintenance platform that integrates smart home devices and connects service providers, from Austin, Texas.
  • Elektrik: Online marketplace for the electrical equipment industry, from Salt Lake City.

Since the program began at the beginning of September, startups have received seed investment, mentorship through Techstars’ worldwide network of business leaders – including Alabama’s business community – and business coaching through the program’s educational components.

The Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator is supported by Alabama Power, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), the Alabama Department of CommerceAltecPowerSouth and the University of Alabama. They have a key role in the accelerator process, with the common goal of growing the number of startup companies based in Alabama.

For more information, visit the Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator program page at www.techstars.com or contact Partnership Manager Alan Bates at acbates@southernco.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

ACCA’s Brasfield warns ‘big crisis right over the horizon’ for county jails as ADOC blocks inmate transfer to prisons

Since late March, the Alabama Department of Corrections has drastically limited the number of inmates it is allowing into its facilities, an action which was taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

However, as the courts are resuming criminal trials, the ADOC has created a burden for the jails in Alabama’s 67 counties, which have a backlog of state-sentenced inmates sitting in county jails awaiting transfer.

During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5 on Friday, Association of County Commissions of Alabama executive direction Sonny Brasfield warned the current arrangement was unsustainable.

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“Certainly in the last nine months, the state of Alabama has significantly limited its acceptance of state-sentenced inmates from the jails into Department of Corrections,” he said. “Today, when we get the report, we fully expect there to be more than 2,000 state-sentenced inmates that are sitting in county jails. And then there are another 1,300 or so who were parole and probation violators that are also awaiting transfer. There is a big crisis right over the horizon.”

Brasfield said the state of Alabama was paying counties out of CARES Act money to help shoulder the burden, but the jails continue to be overwhelmed.

“One of the positive things about the CARES Act is that administration has not turned a deaf ear,” Brasfield continued. “The administration understands that the decision they make to slow down, and in some months, stop intake, has put counties under a significant strain. So counties are receiving $28 per day per inmate from the CARES Act funding to cover costs. What we’ve said to the state all along is that money is only buying us time so that the state can resume a regular intake of inmates. And that money runs out December 30, unless Congress takes some answer, and even so, counties are not able to hold these inmates long-term simply if the state can provide money to do that. Jails are not long-term facilities. They are not constructed for that purpose. And if we move to the rural parts of the state, there are just not enough beds for us to assume the job of the Department of Corrections.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

8 hours ago

Alabama to again host world’s longest annual paddle race in 2021

Paddlers from across the United States will again race each other down 650 miles of Alabama’s scenic rivers in 2021 in the Great Alabama 650 (AL650), the world’s longest annual paddle race.

The third annual AL650 begins Sept. 18 on Weiss Lake in Centre. Racers will have 10 days to reach Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay via the core section of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, the longest river trail in a single state and one of the most biologically diverse regions of the United States. Laura Gaddy, communications director of the trail, said next year’s race will be similar to this year’s competition.

“The AL650 is the longest annual paddle race in the world, and it is one of the toughest endurance events on the planet,” Gaddy said. “Racers will once again face whitewater, battle tidewater currents and hike around a dozen dams in this 650-mile, adventure-style paddle race.”

This year’s AL650 was won by Atlanta’s Paul Cox, a Youkon 1000 finisher, and Joe Mann, who months before had been one member in the winning boat for the MR340, a well-established race beloved by many highly competitive U.S. paddlers. Bobby Johnson, who won the AL650 in 2019, came in second overall, followed by Salli O’Donnell, last year’s runner-up.

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“Prior to the Great Alabama 650, which was held for the first time in 2019, only about 30 people had been recognized for finishing the core section of the trail, and most took about a month to complete the journey,” Gaddy said. “In contrast, racers only have 10 days to complete the course and the winning boat in 2020 finished in fewer than six days.”

Gaddy adds COVID-19 delivered an unexpected twist to this year’s race.

“The race forced other long-distance races to postpone competitions in 2020,” Gaddy said. “As a result, paddlers who planned to enter the Alabama race in a later year were able to prioritize paddling in the AL650.”

Despite the pandemic, many spectators found places along the route to cheer on racers while maintaining a safe social distance from other spectators.

“Racers recognize this aspect of the AL650 as one of the best parts of the competition,” Gaddy said. “Competitors who returned in 2020 said they were not disappointed.”

Registration for the 2021 AL650 opens Jan. 1 and will be limited to 20 entrants. To compete in the 2021 AL650, racers must prove they competed in one of 18 qualifying races within the past five years. For more information, visit al650.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 hours ago

What to watch: Auburn vs. Texas A&M edition

Auburn welcomes the Texas A&M Aggies (6-1) to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the ninth game of their 2020 schedule. The Tigers are looking to bounce back from an uninspiring loss to Alabama, while Texas A&M hopes to continue their impressive season and make their way into the College Football Playoff.

Texas A&M is led by Jimbo Fisher, a former Auburn assistant, in his third season as the head man for the Aggies. Fisher has underwhelmed many in his first two seasons, so the success of the 2020 campaign so far has been much needed. This season the Aggies only loss was to Alabama early in the year, and they boast one of the best wins in the SEC this year, a 41-38 victory over the Florida Gators.

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Take a look at three things which will determine if Auburn can bounce back from a disappointing loss last week or if the Aggies can continue their march toward a top-4 CFP ranking.

Kellen Mond

Texas A&M’s offense is led by senior quarterback Kellen Mond. Although it is only his fourth season, it seems as if Mond has been in College Station for a decade. Over his four seasons as the Aggies’ quarterback, Mond’s performance has been something of a roller coaster ride.

Kellen Mond is certainly talented and capable of making any play that the Aggies’ coaching staff asks of him. However, it has been a lack of consistency from Mond that has put a limit on the Aggies’ ceiling the past few seasons. On days that Mond is locked in, he gives Texas A&M a very good chance to win.

Mond has not set the world on fire this year, completing only about 59% of his passes and throwing for roughly 225 yards per game. But, the big improvement in 2020 has been his ability to avoid turning the ball over, as he has only thrown two interceptions this season. Whether or not Auburn can make Kellen Mond uncomfortable and force him to make costly errors will be a determining factor in today’s matchup.

Auburn O-Line vs. Texas A&M D-Line

Auburn’s offensive line has been a question mark all season. The group had a very rough start to the year (as many expected), but seemed to find their footing and form continuity as the season moved on. However, during the Tennessee game both starting offensive tackles were injured and that has forced reshuffling of some players and an introduction of newcomers.

It is always difficult to make those changes, but the Texas A&M defensive front is not a group that you want to have to try and find answers against. The Aggies are second in the SEC in sacks per game and first in tackles for loss per game. Texas A&M has done a very good job of creating negative plays for opposing offenses all season. The Auburn offensive line must find a way to at least stalemate the the Aggies defensive line in order to have a chance to win the game.

Can Auburn slow down Isaiah Spiller?

Auburn has faced three of the top four rushers in the SEC already this season. Those three backs combined to average 118 yards per game on over 6.5 yards per carry and all scored at least one touchdown. Today, the Tigers face the rusher tied for the lead in rushing yards per game in sophomore standout tailback Isaiah Spiller.

Spiller has proven to be a strong and elusive runner that is capable of making defenders miss and also outracing defenses for breakaway plays. The Auburn defense will have their hands full against Spiller and must bounce back after a tough week against Alabama’s star running back Najee Harris. The Tigers defenders must be up for the challenge and set the tone for the team by stopping Spiller early and often if they want to emerge victorious against Texas A&M.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw