1 year ago

Ivey administration’s workforce development efforts already paying dividends, set up future prosperity

MONTGOMERY — The day after Yellowhammer News published an exclusive interview with Governor Kay Ivey in which she explained that workforce development is key to the Alabama aerospace industry’s continued growth, the governor’s office released an impressive update on the state’s overall workforce development efforts.

Ivey also recognized that when the economy is strong and unemployment is historically low, like Alabama is experiencing now, the challenge is reaching individuals who need further preparation to enter, or re-enter, the workforce, just as the challenge for businesses is finding a sufficient number of skilled workers to keep up with growth.

“In order to meet the current and future demands of business and industry, more must be done to develop a workforce development system that offers a seamless educational journey for individuals to enter in-demand career pathways at every stage of life,” Ivey said in a statement on Tuesday.

The governor’s workforce development efforts began with her signature Strong Start, Strong Finish education initiative, which lays the groundwork to support the education to workforce pipeline. The initiative, announced in July 2017, focuses on three stages of education: 1) early childhood education, 2) computer science in middle school and high school and 3) workforce preparedness.

Additionally, Ivey has made it a priority of her administration to create the most effective workforce development programs possible for Alabamians across the state. To accomplish this goal, she recently established the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation (GOEWT), which Ivey told Yellowhammer News on Monday aligns workforce development funding with projects in the Yellowhammer State.

“Already, Alabama is taking the lead in workforce development efforts, which catches the attention of companies from around the globe and ultimately provides more opportunities for Alabamians,” Ivey remarked.

‘It’s a win-win situation’

Through apprenticeship expansion efforts, the governor is also positioning the workforce development programs across the state to work in the best interests of Alabamians.

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington told Yellowhammer News, “When discussing workforce development and ensuring that Alabama has qualified workers to fill all the high-wage, high-skill jobs that are coming, it’s important to remember that initiatives such as Apprenticeship Alabama and other on-the-job training programs can help bridge the gap in so many ways. They not only allow Alabama’s workers to learn a skill or retrain while bringing home a paycheck, but they also allow Alabama’s employers to build an already trained workforce, while saving on wages. It’s a win-win situation.”

On June 10, Ivey signed SB 295 into law. Sponsored by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), SB 295 expands the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit by providing an additional $500 for hiring in-school youth apprentices. Additionally, SB 295 modifies the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit to increase the base tax credit from $1,000 to $1,250. It increases the number of apprentices one employer may claim from five to 10, as well as the tax credit cap from $3 million to $7.5 million. The new law also established the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship (AOA).

“Getting both new high school graduates and existing workers prepared for the workforce with certified and marketable skills will not only provide better job opportunities, but also enhanced wages that can have a permanent, positive impact on the worker and their family,” Orr said in a statement.

The Alabama Office of Apprenticeship, when officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, will be Alabama’s state apprenticeship agency housed by the Alabama Department of Commerce. The AOA will serve as a registration agency for registered apprenticeships in the state.

“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Ivey and the Alabama Legislature, we are moving to the next level of apprenticeship program development in our state,” AIDT Director Ed Castile advised. “Partnering with many Alabama companies, the Alabama Community College System, K-12 Education, the Alabama Workforce Council and our 7 Regional Workforce Councils we will be extremely successful in developing our skilled workforce through this new Alabama Office of Apprenticeship.  It is another ‘tool in the tool box’ to assist us in reaching the goals set forth in the Governor’s Success Plus plan.”

Important workforce development programs include Success Plus, AIDT and AlabamaWorks, too.

Public-private collaboration is especially crucial, as U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta stressed on Thursday during his visit to Huntsville’s Dynetics, which came after a tour of Calhoun Community College’s Decatur campus. Announcing at that time a $12 million federal grant to the Alabama Community College System for apprenticeships, Acosta noted that industry partners would provide additional matching funds to the relevant educational institutions to develop in-demand skills as part of their programs. This was highlighted by Ivey’s office on Tuesday.

“Alabama’s 24 community colleges are working every day within their local communities to ensure students, from high schoolers to adults looking to advance their skills, have a pathway to success through education and skills training,” ACCS Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker added in a statement.

“We are proud that our most recent efforts to expand apprenticeships and work-based learning opportunities for thousands of Alabamians have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. This expansion will help individuals gain the real-world experience that business and industry is seeking as they hire for well-paying, in-demand jobs,” he concluded.

Additionally, in June, the state of Alabama received a $1.2 million federal grant expanding funding for state apprenticeships. Coinciding with the federal grant, the state legislature budgeted $1 million to offset the costs associated with dual enrollment courses and credential fees for apprentices. The grant coupled with the state investment will be used to provide scholarships for a dual enrollment or community college course that is part of apprentices’ related technical instruction.

“Alabama is a state so full of potential, both in the workforce opportunities we are seeing develop, as well as in the preparedness of its citizens to fulfill those workforce opportunities,” state Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey remarked.

“The aggressive advances we are seeing in workforce development efforts will open doors for professional, economic and industrial growth in our great state,” he continued. “We look forward to the shared vision of Alabama being the hallmark of a state booming with progress, and an education system primed to produce students who are well-equipped to meet the demands of a thriving workforce.”

Then, on June 24, Credential Engine awarded Alabama a $50,000 technical grant to support credential transparency. The Alabama Department of Commerce will serve as the fiscal agent and manager of this project.

Along with the Department of Commerce, the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation and a myriad of state education and workforce development agencies will collaborate to publish all of the certificates, licenses, traditional degrees and non-degree credentials offered in Alabama to the credential registry.

What does industry think of Alabama’s workforce development efforts?

While there is no doubt that the state’s workforce development plans and programming sound good on paper, results speak louder than words.

In this case, the results have been great, with companies continuing to choose the Yellowhammer State for new economic development projects and expansions, especially in the automotive and aerospace industries, for example.

Speaking to Yellowhammer News on Monday, Ivey said that Alabama’s workforce is at the very top of the list of issues discussed during recruitment pitches. She also explained that businesses have been very receptive to these pitches and happy with the state’s workforce development efforts.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said, “This is truly an exciting and pivotal point in our state’s history… Fortunately, Governor Ivey had the foresight to recognize that we must grow a workforce pipeline of available and highly-skilled Alabamians to meet our projected job growth.”

“The success of Alabama’s economic development team is directly related to the quality of the state’s workforce,” he continued. “Our success is producing the effect of putting more Alabamians on company payrolls across the state, and we are experiencing the lowest levels of unemployment in our history.”

How can the average Alabamian help?

While these workforce development policies and programs are being spearheaded at the very highest levels of government and private industry, each and every eligible Alabama voter can do their part in March 2020 to support these efforts.

On this primary election date, SB 397 will be up for a referendum of the people, and Ivey says this proposed educational reform is crucial for further workforce development gains.

“Education is the key to everybody’s prosperity,” she told Yellowhammer News.

The governor stressed that getting the state board of education functioning correctly will increase outcomes for all levels of education, from early childhood through workforce preparedness.

“I’m very optimistic that we can convince the people of Alabama that we need to start at the top (with the state board) to make these changes, and having an appointed board will be far more effective,” Ivey emphasized.

“You say, ‘Why?’ Well, right now board members are elected, and they have to worry about constituencies that put money into their campaigns,” she continued. “Why are our standards for teacher preparation programs at our four-year colleges not very strong? And you ask a board member that, and they say, ‘Well, we get pushback.’ On appointed boards, you don’t get pushback, you have a defined person that you’re responsible to and defined things we want to achieve — and I believe we can be more effective preparing our students pre-k through 12th grade and beyond [that way].”

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

7 hours ago

Tomorrow is officially Small Business Saturday in Alabama

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) has formally proclaimed November 28, 2020, to be Small Business Saturday.

The proclamation issued by Ivey stressed that “the state of Alabama believes that small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the glue that holds communities together.”

Ivey subsequently recognized that small businesses comprise 99.4% of businesses in the Yellowhammer State, employing 48.1% of the private workforce.

“Alabama supports our local small businesses that create jobs, boost our local economy and preserve our neighborhoods,” the governor wrote.

94

The proclamation concluded by asking residents to support small businesses this Saturday, as well as throughout the year. Small businesses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Why Small Business Saturday really matters in 2020

This year’s Small Business Saturday comes amid the Keep Alabama Open campaign.

Ivey recently pledged, “I will not shut down businesses; the business community certainly has my support. As I’ve said many times, you cannot have a life without a livelihood.”

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

8 hours ago

Alabama, Auburn students participate in third annual Operation Iron Ruck to support veterans

Not even the COVID-19 pandemic could stop members of the University of Alabama Campus Veterans Association and Auburn University Student Veterans Association from holding the third annual Operation Iron Ruck, an initiative to bring awareness to the rash of veteran suicides in America.

Beginning Wednesday and culminating ahead of Saturday’s Iron Bowl, participants from the two schools are marching with each other from Auburn to Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium, where this year’s game will be played.

During the trip, each student veteran will hike approximately 50 miles total. The participants walk for 2 ½ hours consecutively before climbing into a support vehicle for about five hours of rest before their next hike. The trip is about 151 miles long and takes approximately three days to complete.

Operation Iron Ruck supports Mission 22, a veteran suicide campaign recognizing that 22 veterans die by suicide daily across the nation.

486

To bring attention to this statistic, student veterans from UA and Auburn this year are each carrying 22 pounds of materials in their rucksacks to be donated to Three Hots and a Cot, a Birmingham-based nonprofit organization that assists homeless military veterans transition from life on the streets into a self-sustained lifestyle.

“Veteran suicide is a serious issue in the veteran community,” commented Ben Shewmake, president of the UA Campus Veterans Association. “The loss of camaraderie, along with service-related problems leave some believing their only way to fix their issues is to end their life. This can be attributed to some people not transitioning back into society, sexual assault issues, family problems and military-related illnesses.”

“The awareness is not to say, ‘hey this is happening,’ but more to tell the ones who are thinking about it that there are people who care and are here if they reach out,” Shewmake added. “There is also a newer message that is popping up that is to tell everyone to keep in touch with their former colleagues and that one random text or call to someone may keep them from committing suicide and no one will probably ever know that. It’s as much to tell those who may be struggling that people care as it is to tell the people who care to reach out rather than wait on being reached out to.”

This initiative has attracted widespread support, including when Governor Kay Ivey last year offered her backing of the program and even formally declared Operation Iron Ruck Day in the state of Alabama.

“Since our country’s inception, our military members have shown their patriotism, their bravery, and ultimately, their willingness to lay their lives on the line for the sake of protecting our freedoms. That sacrifice does not end in combat, because even when our men and women return safely home, many continue to struggle with the impacts of war,” Ivey said in 2019.

“Sadly, in our country, suicide claims the lives of around 22 veterans each day. I urge Alabamians and people all across our country to continue fighting for those who fight for us. I am proud to see this committed group of students from Alabama and Auburn come together to bring awareness to this issue facing veterans in our country,” the governor concluded.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or have concerns about someone else who potentially is doing so, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will be routed to a local crisis center where professionals can talk you through a risk assessment and provide resources in your community.

Additionally, veterans and service members, as well as their loved ones, can call the Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line to connect with qualified, caring U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline (1-800-273-8255, Press 1).

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

10 hours ago

Alabama’s game against LSU rescheduled for Saturday, December 5

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide’s game against LSU, which was originally scheduled for November 14, will reportedly be rescheduled to Saturday, December 5.

The game was postponed earlier this month because of positive COVID-19 test results and subsequent contact tracing within the LSU football program.

It had since become doubtful that the game would be rescheduled, as LSU already has a make-up game against Florida scheduled for December 12, the designated weekend set aside by the SEC for games postponed due to coronavirus protocols.

Yahoo Sport’s Pete Thamel on Friday was the first to report that the SEC plans to readjust the remaining regular season schedule to allow Alabama to play LSU — the defending national champions — this season.

228

It is expected now that Alabama will travel to play LSU in Baton Rouge next weekend.

Alabama’s game at Arkansas, originally scheduled for December 5, will thus be pushed back to December 12.

The SEC Championship Game will be December 19.

It has been reported that this planned schedule adjustment by the SEC is contingent on this weekend’s relevant games not being postponed.

The Tide face Auburn in the Iron Bowl at 2:30 p.m. this Saturday. Head coach Nick Saban will not be on the sideline due to a positive COVID-19 test result on Wednesday.

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.

The SEC confirmed the schedule change.

Alabama at LSU will now be played December 5 at 7:00 p.m., and CBS will broadcast the game.

“The cooperation and flexibility of our coaches, athletics directors and campus leaders along with the dedication of our student-athletes now provides the opportunity to reach this point in the season with the ability for each SEC team to play ten football games in 2020,” stated SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “We knew before the season there would be interruptions and scheduling challenges related to COVID-19 and we will continue to manage the remaining weeks of the football schedule to allow for as many games to be played as possible, with a continuing focus on determining an SEC champion.”

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

11 hours ago

Lockheed Martin completes acquisition of Huntsville company’s hypersonics portfolio, boosting Alabama-based national security work

Lockheed Martin this week announced it has closed on the acquisition of Huntsville-based Integration Innovation Inc.’s (i3) hypersonics portfolio.

Terms of acquiring this portion of the Rocket City software and systems engineering company were not disclosed.

A release advised that the acquisition expands Lockheed’s capabilities to design, develop and produce integrated hypersonic weapon systems for its customers.

Lockheed’s hypersonics program is based in Courtland, Alabama, which is less than an hour away from Huntsville.

475

“Our customers require the most forward-thinking, advanced technology that anticipates and addresses their national security requirements. This business combination not only reinforces our commitment to their missions, but also expands our portfolio in a strategic way,” stated Eric Scherff, vice president of Hypersonic Strike Programs at Lockheed. “Combining i3’s talent and domain expertise with our shared vision for hypersonic strike will expand how we think about and deliver this critical capability to the warfighter across domains.”

Mike Wicks, the former CEO of i3, has been named vice president of the Hypersonic Engineering & Accelerated Technologies program within the Hypersonic Strike Portfolio for Lockheed Martin Space.

“We’re proud to be a part of the Lockheed Martin family, as they are a technology authority and employ some of the best and brightest in the industry,” said Wicks. “We have invested much time and energy into developing strategic solutions at i3. And, we’re finding the need to synergize these offerings with Lockheed Martin is more timely than ever and unlocks the value to our joint customers.”

The U.S. Army last year awarded Lockheed a $347 million contract to serve as its Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) prototype system integrator.

In addition to much of this work being conducted in Lawrence County, Lockheed chose Huntsville-based Dynetics (now a Leidos company) to work on this project, developing launchers with hydraulics, outriggers, power generation and distribution for the ground platform. Dynetics will further provide flight test and training support. Moreover, i3 was named as a part of that Lockheed-led LRHW team.

Separately, Dynetics Technical Solutions last year was also awarded an Army contract in the amount of $351.6 million to produce Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) prototypes in Huntsville. In turn, Dynetics selected Lockheed as a subcontractor on this project.

Both contracts are part of the Army’s work to advance the fielding of a prototype hypersonic weapon by Fiscal Year 2023 and transition the development of Army hypersonic capabilities out of government laboratories and into commercial production.

Beyond North Alabama’s private sector expertise in hypersonics, this collaboration is administered by the Army Hypersonic Project Office, part of the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), which is headquartered at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.

The C-HGB is intended for use by not just the Army but also the Navy and the Missile Defense Agency, which is anchored in Huntsville.

Hypersonic Strike capabilities have been identified by the federal government as a critical capability that must be addressed in support of the U.S. National Security Strategy. Hypersonic weapons are unique in that they are capable of flying at five times the speed of sound and operate at varying altitudes.

U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) has been a key supporter of hypersonics programs, including in his roles as chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and its Subcommittee on Defense.

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

13 hours ago

Birmingham’s Regions Center once again lighting up ahead of Christmas

Regions Bank’s iconic headquarters tower in Birmingham will once again be transformed into a beautiful holiday lights display starting on Friday.

This is an annual Magic City hallmark going back to the late 1970s.

Each year, red, green and white lights installed above the windows surrounding the 30-story tower are illuminated in the forms of Christmas trees, a massive wreath and a giant stocking.

The lights come on just before sunset each evening beginning the day after Thanksgiving, and the nightly display continues until January 1.

“The lighting of the Regions Center is a tradition going back more than 40 years, and Regions Bank is proud to keep the tradition alive, especially during a year in which so much has changed,” stated Joe Holcombe, senior facilities project manager in Regions’ Corporate Real Estate division.

271

“In recent weeks, crews have been installing and testing lights, working hard to get Birmingham’s tallest holiday display ready for the season,” he continued. “As the lights come on this evening, we wish everyone a happy holiday season and a brighter new year to come.”

The Regions Center tower rises nearly 400 feet over 5th Avenue North at 20th Street North in downtown Birmingham.

While some of the best views are from Railroad Park or from Vulcan Park on Red Mountain, the customary lights are visible across the city, including to travelers on nearby Interstate highways and planes landing at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

Emilio Cerice, senior vice president of Corporate Real Estate for Regions Bank, said in a statement last year, “It’s something we look forward to every year – and it’s something the city looks forward to. In recent years, it’s been fun to watch social media and see people sharing creative photos of the building or sharing their memories of coming downtown to see the lights.”

In addition to this annual seasonal display, the Regions Center has also been illuminated to celebrate the Regions Tradition golf tournament, as well as the 1996 Summer Olympics (when Birmingham hosted Olympic soccer games) and in a patriotic display to support American troops during the Gulf War in 1991.

“Birmingham is our headquarters city. We’re proud to occupy a prominent spot in the city’s skyline,” Cerice added. “And we’re proud to carry on this tradition.”

You can read more about the history of the tradition and the process of displaying the lights here.

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