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Introducing Connect to your Future: What does workforce development’ really mean and why is it a buzzword in 2021?

I’m a 29-year-old college graduate who’s been working since the age of 15. I am employed full-time in a job that I love, benefit from dual family income, and have plenty of opportunity to succeed.

So why should I care about “workforce development” when I’m not even sure I could tell you what it means? Just four months ago my ignorance smacked me right in the face. Our team had been noticing the growing consistency in our partners’ advertising needs. Almost all were running campaigns to highlight company culture, hiring opportunities and programs, employee benefits, on-the-job trainings, and so much more.

As I was personally opening my ears to these conversations, I began noticing similar challenges in my everyday life; slow service at restaurants, delayed package delivery, “now hiring” signs in every store window, and even backed up waiting times when we needed professional maintenance work done on our house.

However, there was a missing link I did not yet see; these were all outcomes of the current workforce challenges in our state. After months of research and sitting in meetings with industry experts, I realized I could be a part of moving the needle simply by being a part of the conversation.

The examples above may ring a bell for you as well, or you may have had more direct relationship with workforce challenges that have impacted you greatly. That’s exactly why we’ve partnered with Alabama Works, Manufacture Alabama and Alabama Power to launch Connect to your Future: A Yellowhammer News initiative connecting the people of Alabama with its workforce challenges and solutions.

A statewide problem needs a statewide solution. As the premier media outlet in the state with a platform that includes business, community and governmental leaders, Yellowhammer is positioned to offer education and opportunities to our readers that bridge the gap between Alabama’s workforce challenges and its solutions.

So, for the average Alabamian – what does workforce development really mean? How does it impact daily life? How will it impact the future? Why is it important? What can we collectively do about it? These are all questions that will be answered throughout the Connect to your Future series.

As employers in Alabama are facing labor market shortages, inflation, reskilling challenges, supply chain delays, and many more workforce development problems, our partners are no strangers to these issues and have been creating helpful resources for years. It’s time we give them the bullhorn and increase the public awareness of what this issue is and how it can be improved.

Alabama Works reported in the 2021 Workforce Council Annual Report that between now and 2025, “about 24.2 million Americans will earn postsecondary credentials. To reach the 2025 goal, 16.4 million more high-skilled workers need to be added to that total.”

What does this mean? It means that for our children to receive lunches at school, more commercial trucking licenses must be acquired for deliveries to be made. It means that for houses, hospitals, and cars to be built, specialized training must be made accessible. From Alabama Works, it means that there must be a “significant increase in the number of people who enroll in programs and earn all types of postsecondary credentials.”

Over the next few months, Connect to your Future will shine a light connecting the dots for the future of Alabamians and the future of Alabama businesses. It is our goal to bring awareness to the opportunities that exist for all Alabamians and to increase the number of people in the state’s workforce.

Thank you to our ‘Connect to your Future’ sponsors: Alabama Power, Alabama Works and Manufacture Alabama for making this initiative possible. 

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