1 year ago

Huntsville’s Dynetics signs Trump’s ‘Pledge to America’s Workers,’ will hire 700 new employees over five years

HUNTSVILLE — U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta on Thursday went on a flurry of tours highlighting north Alabama’s high-tech boom, saying the area’s success would not be possible without higher education and industry stakeholders working together.

After stops at Calhoun Community College’s Decatur campus and Huntsville’s ADTRAN, Acosta participated in a roundtable discussion about apprenticeships and manufacturing with senior leaders from Dynetics.

He then took a tour of the manufacturing division at Dynetics Technical Solutions, with the Trump cabinet official leaving more than impressed.

At a press conference afterward, he touched on getting rid of the “stigma” of hands-on jobs that require technical training rather than a four-year degree, something that Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame has made a personal mission.

Acosta emphasized that, backed by his tour just minutes earlier, modern manufacturing jobs are anything but “dirty.” He marveled at the state-of-the-art, high-tech facilities at Dynetics, which produces advanced technologies and products in industries that include defense and aerospace.

“What they are producing is precise,” Acosta explained. “And they’re not just running machines, they’re programming machines. We need to realize that what we think of as manufacturing is not what manufacturing is today.”

A big reason why Dynetics has been able to become an international industry leader is their own workforce development efforts.

Dynetics CEO David King outlined that the company’s “rich history of science and innovation” is driven by its employees.

Since being founded in Huntsville in 1974, Dynetics has grown to employ over 2,000 people across ten different states.

“The words manufacturing and Dynetics are becoming more synonymous with each day,” King said. “We provide solutions to address our nation’s most challenging advanced missions.”

In the precision machining and fabrication center that Acosta toured, King advised that Dynetics employs “more than 130 highly skilled personnel.”

Additionally, in their newly opened Gilbert Advanced Manufacturing Facility in Huntsville, Dynetics employs another 200 employees, all also of high skill and training — a core point of emphasis at the company.

Dynetics has achieved their level of success by offering their employees more and more ways to achieve a lofty degree of education, skill and training.

For example, they are currently conducting a summer internship program featuring 120 interns from 30 different colleges and universities. These interns get unique hands-on experience, often coming back to work at the company upon graduation with a head start.

“We’ve added more than 600 employees to Dynetics in the last three years,” King outlined. “And we take training and education very seriously. We’ve had over 500 employees be a part of ‘Dynetics University,’ which is an internal education movement that we have been doing for more than 30 years, where folks from Dynetics teach other folks here at Dynetics.”

“Last year, more than 2,000 employees participated in some other type of training, as well,” he continued. “This is tremendous for our company.”

While Dynetics is on the cutting edge of technology, education and training, the company wants to do even more. Which is why, on Thursday, King signed the Trump administration’s “Pledge to America’s Workers,” which is a commitment to expand programs that educate, train and re-skill our nation’s workers from high-school age to near-retirement.

Dynetics, King said, is pledging to create “enhanced career opportunities for 700 individuals over the next five years” alone.

“Dynetics is definitely growing,” he said, before affirming that the company’s pledge is to hire “700 new employees,” many of whom would be in Alabama.

Speaking after King, Acosta thanked Dynetics for signing the important pledge.

“As I was walking around Dynetics today, I started talking to several employees. And so many individuals started out coming from tech schools, and then they had an opportunity to learn. And to progress along the career track, because Dynetics did not just give them a job. They gave them learning opportunities,” the labor secretary lauded.

“I met a young man who started from a tech school who’s now a manager of an entire department,” Acosta said. “I met another individual who’s coding, and again, he started from a tech school. And he is now running incredibly advanced machinery.”

He then broke down exactly what Dynetics’ story proves and what others can learn from their model of success.

“So the message is this: there are so many career paths available,” Acosta explained. “College for some. Apprenticeships for others.”

He hailed “employers that recognize talent and empower individuals by providing them educational and skill opportunities.”

‘Cooperation’ between industry, education key to north Alabama’s continued growth

Acosta’s visit came at a time when 7.4 million jobs are available across America. In Alabama, just like the rest of the nation, the biggest problem in this high-performing economy is that employers cannot find enough qualified workers to fill available positions and help grow their companies.

To address this, the Trump and Ivey administrations are both being aggressive in their workforce development efforts.

On the federal level, Acosta said that grants are being handed out to state community college systems to bolster local programs.

For example, the U.S. Department of Labor in recent days announced that the Alabama Community College System was being awarded $12 million to expand apprenticeships.

However, education and industry also need to work hand-in-hand, Acosta stressed to Yellowhammer News on Thursday.

“Northern Alabama’s manufacturing base is growing rapidly — faster than Alabama and faster than the nation’s manufacturing is,” he said. “Every year about 2,300 individuals are hired into advanced manufacturing in Alabama. And those career tracks pay great… for that $12 million investment, which is being matched by industry in the private sector to the tune of more than $4 million, the community college system has pledged to create an additional 5,000 apprenticeship opportunities in Alabama. So, I thank Dynetics for what its doing, I thank the community college system for what it’s doing, and, most importantly, we need to keep this up.”

As the economy continues to grow, so too will the need for more skilled workers.

“What we have seen that is most successful is when companies and educational partners come together,” Acosta advised. “And we’ve seen this in north Alabama in the apprenticeship programs. We’re seeing this at Dynetics and their commitment to educate their workforce. Education needs to work with business so that it focuses on the skills that are being demanded by the workforce. It has to be a partnership.”

Unfortunately, the American education system has not necessarily changed with the times across the nation to accommodate this need.

Alabama, under Governor Kay Ivey’s administration, has been trying to change this in pre-k — 12. Additionally, industry stakeholders such as AlabamaWorks continue to move the state’s workforce development efforts forward at impressive rates. And, luckily for the Yellowhammer State, the state’s four-year higher education institutions and community college system have been leaders in working alongside industry instead of telling industry what it should be doing. The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is a prime example of this in north Alabama.

“So much of business has changed, so much of the way we interact with the world has changed with [increased technology],” Acosta remarked. “But something that hasn’t really changed is education. We still view education as a system where we learn and then we stop learning and we start working. And that doesn’t work. It needs to be a continuous burning and learning process. Where we continue learning on the job, continue acquiring skills to move up that career ladder and to learn the new technologies that are being used in places like Dynetics.”

Asked to pick one word to summarize what he witnessed on his north Alabama visit, Acosta immediately responded, “Cooperation.”

“Because the Huntsville area is growing so quickly, businesses have to… partner with the community college and educational system. And if they were not, the growth would not be happening,” he concluded. “Companies choose a city that has an educated, ready-and-able workforce. And the cooperation I have seen between the educational systems and their business partners here is spectacular.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

South Alabama, UAB to face off in nationally televised Thursday night game

The University of South Alabama Jaguars will host the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Blazers on Thursday night at 6:30 in each team’s third game of the 2020 college football season.

This will be the second-ever game at the Jaguars’ new Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile.

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Both teams go into the contest 1-1.

You can watch the game on television via ESPN or online via the network’s website.

The matchup will be broadcast locally on the USA Football Radio Network: flagship 96.1 FM/99.5 FM “The Jag” in Mobile. Live audio will also be available online from anywhere here.

UAB won the first and only previous meeting in history between the Yellowhammer State programs: a 35-3 triumph last year in Birmingham.

South Alabama is still seeking their first-ever win at Hancock Whitney Stadium after losing a tight contest to Tulane last time out.

On Saturday, college football fans in the state will also get to see SEC play return, including the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Palmer introduces bill allowing flexibility for how states spend leftover CARES Act money

Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) on Wednesday introduced the Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility Act (H.R. 8360).

This legislation would allow states to determine how to spend remaining respective relief funds that were issued by the federal government under the CARES Act.

States and localities were provided $150 billion total through the relief fund for mitigation and response to COVID-19, and it is now estimated that approximately $80 billion remains unspent still. Right now, if those funds are unspent at the end of the calendar year, they revert to the federal government.

Palmer’s H.R. 8360 would allow state legislatures to determine how to utilize these remaining funds, with measures to encourage infrastructure development and future coronavirus preparedness.

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“The initial legislation was perhaps too restrictive,” Palmer said in a statement.

“What we hope to do with this legislation is not only create some flexibility to prevent waste but to incentivize states to use the funds towards much needed infrastructure,” he explained. “The one-size-fits-all nature of the underlying measure fails to consider how each state is responding to the pandemic differently, so this legislation would put the spending decisions in the hands of those on the ground in the states who have a better understanding of their specific needs. If we pass this bill, we will give states a much needed boost for infrastructure and an extended period to determine how to address continued COVID-19 related expenses, instead of rushing to spend the funds with a looming deadline.”

According to the Central Alabama congressman’s office, the legislation would specifically prohibit funds from being spent on government employee bonuses, lobbying expenses or budget shortfalls predating the pandemic. H.R. 8360 would further provide a 50% match for funds spent on infrastructure projects begun in the next year and require states to hold 25% of their remaining relief funds in trust for future COVID-19 expenses.

Palmer has 14 co-sponsors listed on the legislation as of Thursday at 4:45 p.m. CT. All co-sponsors are Republicans.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

House of A.D. King added to African American Civil Rights Network by Sec. of Interior David Bernhardt

BIRMINGHAM — On May 11, 1963, the house in Birmingham where Reverend Alfred Daniel Williams “A.D.” King lay asleep with his family was bombed by someone angry at King’s leadership in the civil rights movement.

Fifty-seven years later, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt traveled to that same house so he could personally oversee its addition to the African American Civil Rights Network.

Though not as famous as his elder brother, Martin Luther King, Jr., the younger King was a prominent civil rights leader in his own right. He led the Birmingham Campaign while serving as reverend of the First Street Baptist church in the Ensley neighborhood of the Magic City.

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According to the King Institute at Stanford, angry protesters filled the streets that May evening after learning of the failed assassination attempt at the faith leader’s home.

A.D. King went out to join the protesters, who were on the verge of descending into riots.

“My friends, we have had enough problems tonight. If you’re going to kill someone, then kill me. … Stand up for your rights, but with nonviolence,” he told the crowd, which reportedly dissipated soon after.

King tragically drowned at age 38 in 1969 but his widow, Naomi Ruth Barber King, and daughter, Dr. Alveda King, were both on hand Thursday for the addition of the A.D. King House to the African American Civil Rights Network; both women were in the house when it was bombed.

The A.D. King Home in the Ensley neighborhood of Birmingham (Henry Thornton/YHN)

The African American Civil Rights Network was created by a unanimously passed act of Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in January 2018. It catalogs and publicizes locations significant to the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

“I am humbled to be here,” began Secretary Bernhardt when he began his remarks Thursday morning.

The A.D. King home was purchased in 2005 by Omie Crockett, Sr., a contemporary of King’s and civil rights foot soldier who is now 98 years old. Crockett paid to restore the home and was praised by Bernhardt and members of the King family on Thursday. His daughter, Jacqueline Crockett Washington, represented him at the ceremony on Thursday.

“This is a home where many civil rights movement meetings were held,” advised Washington, adding, “Words cannot express our sincere gratitude. To us, this represents all that Rev. A.D. King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other civil rights greats fought for.”

“This home could have been torn down, those stories could disappear,” Bernhardt said of the value added by recognizing sites such as the A.D. King House. ”

“Those stories in my opinion are what bring us together as a community and as a country. Today’s actions ensure that the events that occurred here on May 11 1963 will never be forgotten, ever,” Bernhardt continued about the importance of the African American Civil Rights Network and its inclusion of the King house.

Aurelia Skipwith, the director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, was on hand for the ceremony Thursday morning and noted that the A.D. King House is the 32nd site on the African American Civil Rights Network. Skipwith had a role in implementing the Network before being nominated to head the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“This event is also particularly meaningful to me, because my parents are from Columbus, Mississippi… without the contributions of A.D. King and countless others fighting for freedom and equality I would not be standing here today,” said Skipwith.

“I am proud to be the Service’s 22nd director and the first African American to hold that position in our organization’s 150-year history,” she informed those attending.

During the ceremony, Bernhardt sat to sign the official proclamation adding the A.D. King House to the Civil Rights Network and was embraced by Naomi King.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

Yellowhammer News asked Bernhardt what he had learned in the commissioning of the 32 sites so far in the Civil Rights Network.

“Understanding how courageous not only are the people we know, but their entire families were involved. Tremendous courage, tremendous leadership,” he replied.

At the conclusion of the event, Yellowhammer asked Naomi King, A.D.’s widow, what it was like to have the Secretary of the Interior travel to Alabama to memorialize the house she once lived in.

“It means the world to me,” she responded, “When I say that it means the world to me, in my heart of hearts, people are people, and love has no color. To have this brother [Bernhardt] sit here today to help celebrate this, it means so much to me.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

11 hours ago

Molly Cagle is a 2020 Woman of Impact

Building Alabama’s soaring 21st century economy that featured record low unemployment before the COVID-19 pandemic took many unsung heroes working day-in, day-out behind the scenes across public and private sectors.

Similarly, our state is going to need this same type of collaborative servant leadership to enable a successful post-pandemic recovery, securing a prosperous present while paving the way for an even brighter future.

Fortunately for Alabamians, there are pro-jobs champions like Molly Cagle hard at work doing just that.

Cagle, vice president of governmental affairs for the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), has proven a perfect fit in executing the organization’s mission of “making a sweet home for business.”

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In her first weeks on the job in 2019, Cagle was one of the key governmental affairs professionals that helped the historic Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package sail smoothly through the legislature into becoming law.

While that assignment might have seemed like a baptism by fire to outside observers, Cagle’s prior experiences had her well prepared for the job at-hand.

Indeed, fostering a pro-growth environment in which hardworking Alabamians can find high-paying, quality jobs has been Cagle’s mantra throughout her career thus far. Before joining BCA, Cagle served as the director of external affairs for Manufacture Alabama, representing many of the state’s largest employers. Prior to that, she worked on many of the same issues — and more — in the public sector as the Senate liaison for Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston).

A graduate of Troy University, Cagle in a recent interview with Yellowhammer News advised that part of what initially drew her to the world of governmental affairs was actually the relative lack of females in the field.

“I have always been interested in politics and government, but always saw the lack of women advocates and leaders in this space,” she said. “I just think women bring such a huge role to the table and have such valuable opinions and insight.”

Cagle outlined how she first pursued her passion by doing the leg work, such as going door-to-door for campaigns. This is why she advises others, “Start where you can. You’re not too good for or above anything.”

She still continues to practice what she preaches to this day.

“Just do whatever it takes to get the job done,” Cagle summarized of her mentality. “Work hard, keep your head down and be persistent.”

That mindset has paid off already for her, and Cagle is also executive director of ProgressPAC, BCA’s vaunted political arm.

However, getting here has not been an easy journey. There have been challenges along the way, including hurdles unique to being a female in a male-dominated arena, like a smaller peer network and less networking chances.

Cagle, though, views these obstacles as opportunities, not detriments.

“It forces me to be better,” she remarked. “It forces me to be the best I can and be more professional, more prepared and have a better command of the issues.”

This outlook of treating challenges as opportunities — and being grateful for them — is indicative of how Cagle lives her life. She explained where her motivation comes from.

“The most rewarding part of my career or my job is seeing others succeed around me,” Cagle said.

This is emblematic of her passion for mentoring and lifting up others, including peers and younger women.

Stressing the importance of “looking behind me and bringing women up,” Cagle commented, “That’s part of who I am, because the reason I am who I am is because of women.”

“A strong influence for me was my mom,” she shared. “She passed away when I was 28 but she taught me that every day is a chance to make someone else’s day better. You never know what fight someone else is fighting. Use this life and the gifts you are given to make the world around you better. Be generous with your time, help those in need and always be grateful for what you have.”

“A lot of times the difference in a good day and bad day is your perspective on it,” Cagle concluded.

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Molly Cagle a 2020 Woman of Impact.

WATCH:

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through October 1. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Doug Jones on SCOTUS vacancy: ‘I don’t think my vote’s going to count’

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) seems intent on keeping his pledge from last year to oppose any hypothetical Supreme Court nomination made by President Donald Trump for the rest of this term.

While Democratic leadership quietly admitted they always knew Jones would back them in voting against Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation last time-around, Alabama’s junior senator at least acted like he was being considerate throughout the process at times.

This includes Jones’ assertion that he tried to meet with Kavanaugh during the confirmation period, a meeting which — for whatever reason — ultimately did not occur before Jones’ “no” vote.

However, with Trump set to put forward a new SCOTUS nomination on Saturday, Jones apparently does not even view himself as a swing vote anymore.

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RELATED: Tuberville: ‘Doug Jones will vote the way that Chuck Schumer and the liberal Democrats instruct him’

Politico reported that U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who voted in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, is indeed viewed as a gettable vote for Republicans again this go-around.

“I’d love to meet with a nominee. I have no problem,” said Manchin.

Yet, Jones does not see the point for himself to even meet with the nominee.

“I don’t think my vote’s going to count, so I doubt they’ll even want to,” Jones told Politico. “But we’ll see.”

The White House, for its part, is encouraging Democrats to meet with the nominee and act in good-faith.

“The president has not even put forward a nominee yet,” stated Judd Deere, a White House spokesperson, per Politico. “This is pure politics from Senate Democrats and shows they do not take their constitutional duty to advise and consent seriously.”

RELATED: Doug Jones fundraises off of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn