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Guest opinion: Quality, transparency key to workforce development

As the author Emily McKay providentially said, “when you’re lucky enough to catch lightning in a bottle, you put the lid on as fast as you can.”

The Legislature caught proverbial lightning in a bottle with the passage of the Alabama Credential Quality and Transparency Act (Act 2023-365) sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins and championed in the Senate by Sen. Chesteen. Act 2023-365 passed the House of Representatives on March 22, 2023 by a vote of 104-0, passed the Senate by a vote of 35-0 on May 24, 2023, and was signed into law by Governor Ivey on June 1, 2023.

This bill has had a long row to hoe to get to this point, and it is worth recapping how far we have come. On Jan. 31, 2015, the Alabama Workforce Council recommended the establishment of an inter-agency database to the Governor to link Alabama’s preschool through postsecondary student information with workforce data.

Legislation was introduced by Rep. Terri Collins during the 2016 regular legislative session to codify the P20W database system, but the bill did not advance. Sen. Bobby Singleton and Rep. Collins sponsored companion bills in the 2017 regular legislative session to establish P20W database system.

However, these bills did not advance either. During the 2022 regular legislative session, Rep. Collins introduced another similar bill (HB241), which passed the House with a vote of 98-2 but did not advance further.

Act 2023-365 codifies three key policy priorities of the Alabama Workforce Council, the Business Education Alliance of Alabama, and Alabama’s business and industry community:

  1. Act 2023-365 codifies the inter-agency data-sharing system known as the ATLAS on Career Pathways that allows data to be connect across multiple agencies to provide impact data on myriad education and training programs.
  2. Act 2023-365 creates the Alabama Committee on Credential Quality and Transparency that will provide an annual list of valuable credentials that are aligned to in-demand occupations beginning in June 2024. There are thousands of credentials of varying degrees of value available to Alabamians, and the Credential Quality and Transparency Committee will help us to ensure that we are not selling empty promises to folks.
  3. Act 2023-365 codifies the requirement to graduate college and career readiness beginning with the 2025-2026 school year. This requirement was initially enacted as an administrative rule code by the Alabama State Board of Education. Closing the 9-percentage point gap between the 2022 graduation rate of 88 percent and the 2022 college and career readiness rate of 79 percent.

Act 2023-365 will help to close the gap between the graduation rate and the college and career readiness rate. This effort will be bolstered by $25 million of additional funding included in the 2024 Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget and supplemental budget to help schools expand access to more of the 10 college and career readiness indicators currently available to students.

To increase the number of people aged 16 and above who are working or seeking work and the number of Alabamians aged 16 and above who have earned at least one credential of value, we must eliminate the leaks from our talent pipeline.

The Credential Quality and Transparency Act will do just that by providing policymakers and the public with the data needed to allow the left hand to know what the right hands is doing when it comes to which education and training programs provide pathways to self-sufficiency.

Join us in commending Governor Ivey and the Legislature in taking this decisive step for that will benefit the entire State of Alabama for years to come.

Tim McCartney serves as Chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council and is the former co-owner of McCartney Construction.

Dr. Joe Morton is president of the Business Education Alliance of Alabama and is the former Alabama State Superintendent of Education.

Jimmy Parnell is ALFA president and CEO, a fifth-generation Alabama farmer, and was elected president of the Alabama Farmer’s Federation in 2012.

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