2 weeks 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

14 hours ago

On this day in Alabama history: Camp McClellan was established in east Alabama

July 18, 1917

Shortly after the United States entered World War I, the War Department established Camp McClellan as a rapid mobilization base and permanent National Guard facility. More than 27,000 men were training at the east Alabama base by the end of 1917. Camp McClellan was originally named in honor of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, and was renamed Fort McClellan in 1929. During World War II, nearly 500,000 military personnel trained there. After being put in custodial status following the war, it was reactivated during the Korean War and Cold War era. The focus shifted to chemical weapons training during and after the Vietnam War. The fort survived one round of military base closings during the 1990s, but it was finally shut down in 1999. The site has shifted to private use as well as for Alabama National Guard training.

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Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

14 hours ago

Ainsworth in Huntsville: Alabama is ‘the aerospace capital of the world’

Wednesday, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) presented Dr. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. with the 2019 Thomas R. Hobson Distinguished Aerospace Service Award for a lifetime of exemplary achievement in the aerospace field.

The award presentation came during the Aerospace States Association’s annual dinner, which was held in Huntsville at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

Ainsworth is currently chair of the association, which is a national nonpartisan group composed of lieutenant governors, gubernatorial-appointed delegates and associate members from aerospace organizations and academia.

In remarks shared with Yellowhammer News, Ainsworth honored Alabama’s space legacy, recognizing Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary this week.

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“Throughout each of the past six decades, Alabama and the Marshall Space Flight Center have created the engines that rocketed man into the heavens,” he said. “It’s here that Dr. Wernher Von Braun and his committed team of scientists and engineers birthed the Saturn V rocket that took men to the Moon and allowed them to place a U.S. flag on the lunar surface.”

“For those reasons, it’s altogether appropriate that we gather in this state and this city for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission,” he continued. “We are fortunate to have Buzz Aldrin, an original moonwalker and living American legend, join us during this conference.”

The conference is set to last through the rest of the week, with attendees working on publicly policy related to the aerospace industry and advocating for their home states.

“The work we do here this week will bring the stars and planets closer to the earth and ensure that future generations are privy to the same dreams and inspirations that the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Shuttle, and Space Station eras provid-ed to generations prior,” Ainsworth told the crowd.

Alabama is set to play a big role in ongoing and future space exploration, as Ainsworth emphasized in an interview with WHNT on Wednesday.

“I was just talking with some industry leaders who are here and they are talking about expanding the existing industry,” he the lieutenant governor said. “I think a lot of new industries are looking here. And the reason why is we are the aerospace capital of the world. I think when you look at our tax environment, with the workforce we are training, Alabama is open for business in aerospace, no doubt.”

Speaking with WZDX, Ainsworth referenced the Artemis program, with companies like United Launch Alliance (ULA) in Alabama set to make history in the very near future.

“Today I had an opportunity to tour ULA where they are building rockets that will literally send our next astronauts to the Moon, and when you look at just the president’s commitment to going back to the Moon, and when you look at potentially the future of going to Mars, it’s an exciting and energetic time in the aerospace industry right now,” Ainsworth advised.

RELATED: Aderholt celebrates Apollo 11, calls for SLS to stay on schedule

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

16 hours ago

Apollo 11 is now problematic?

Right now, Alabama, along with the rest of America, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. A mission that culminated in man walking on the moon and fulfilled the vision put out by President John F. Kennedy that it would be done before the end of the 1970s.

In normal times, this would be a time for celebration and unity. Americans from all sectors and political parties would drop their swords and join together to consume media of trying times and magnificent accomplishments.

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Unfortunately, this is Trump’s America and because of that, the overarching theme that must pulse through every aspect of American culture, which is dominated by the media and their Democrats, is the simple undeniable and universal belief that America sucks.

It’s racist, stupid, sexist, stupid, homophobic, stupid, Islamaphobic, stupid and stupid.

Our soccer team believes it. Our celebrities believe it. Our politicians believe it.

And the news media is going to feed it to us non-stop.

For example, Werhner Von Braun was a Nazi, therefore his accomplishments on this matter are unworthy.

Another example: The space program had too many men, therefore it was problematic.

Another argument is Soviet Russia had more firsts (or something), so America should have focused less on accomplishing the mission and more on diversity.

Who is this for? What American wanted this? Who is the consumer for this news?

Inhabitants of American newsrooms and their woke superfans online.

This was not one outlet, one reporter, one editor — it is across the board.

These are major American media outlets and they cannot resist the urge to scold their fellow Americans for, in this case, the perceived sins of the past.

This is why people hate the media as a whole.

They aren’t offended, they aren’t going to write a letter, they aren’t going to demand someone be fired.

Your average American is sick of this nonsense. They roll their eyes and go on about their business.

This is why people don’t trust them. This is why they are called things like the “enemy of the people” and people applaud it.

This is how you got Trump.

President Donald Trump is the embodiment of the people who are sick of this crap.

And every time the people who work in these newsrooms and under these “legendary” banners write these articles try to scold Americans for some clearly arbitrary offense of the day, or the past, they might as well drop a dollar into Trump’s reelection campaign.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

16 hours ago

Doug Jones’ approval rating continues to fall

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) continues to lose popularity as 2020 draws nearer.

Morning Consult on Thursday released its polling numbers for the second quarter of 2019, showing Jones’ net approval rating 20 points lower than the first quarter of 2018 when he entered the U.S. Senate.

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The polling was conducted from April 1 through June 30 and measured registered voters. The results showed 39% of respondents approved of Jones’ job performance, while 37% disapproved and 24% were undecided. The margin of error was 1%.

In contrast, Senator Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) net approval rating is 15 points higher than Jones’, with 46% approving and only 29% disapproving of Alabama’s venerable senior senator.

Jones’ net approval rating has dropped three points since the beginning of the year.

Another poll conducted in April went deeper than Morning Consult’s approval rating surveys, showing that Jones faces nearly insurmountable demographic barriers to reelection.

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

17 hours ago

Alabama couple turns racist graffiti message into opportunity to respond to hate with love

Jeremy and Gina Miller, an interracial husband-and-wife real estate team in the Birmingham metro area, were shocked on Wednesday to discover a racial slur painted on one of their “For Sale” signs at a local property.

ABC 33/40 reported that “NO N***R” was painted on the Local Realty sign in large white letters.

However, the Millers are responding to this hateful incident purely with love, guided by their faith, according to The Trussville Tribune.

“I think that God has been preparing Gina and me for a long time, in ways that we never would have expected, to touch a lot of people,” Jeremy told the newspaper.

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The Millers, who live in Clay, will not be pressing charges on the individual responsible for the racist graffiti, whose identity is at this time unknown.

“We would love to know who did it because if we find them, we will show them mercy,” Jeremy advised. “I don’t think anything good comes from pressing charges. That’s not the message here.”

The couple hopes to use the incident to unite their community and lift others up.

“We just got a message on Facebook yesterday about how God spoke to him through my post and our response,” Jeremy told The Trussville Tribune. “It encouraged him to see us responding through love and not through retaliation.”

“When something like this occurs, you can love back instead. We want to unite people,” he added.

Jeremy also wants people to know the racist incident is not representative of their community.

“This is not indicative of the people in this area,” he emphasized. “It happens everywhere and they don’t always say it to your face.”

Perhaps the toughest part of the incident personally for the Millers has been trying to tell their children what happened.

“Having to explain to them what happened with the sign has been a little frustrating,” Gina noted.

The Millers are also using this incident as a learning opportunity.

“We tell [our children] all the time, hurt people, hurt people,” Jeremy explained. “I tell them that even adults do mean things sometimes. When you’re angry, you’re not nice to other people… We want to respond in love when maybe that person hasn’t received such things.”

Jeremy stressed a constant message of love.

“It (racism) is not dead and it probably won’t die for a very, very long time, but we as a culture and society have to keep perpetuating the message of loving one another,” he remarked. “If someone’s hurting and they lash out at you, you don’t have to respond negatively.”

The defaced sign has been replaced with a fresh one that includes both Jeremy and Gina’s headshots.

Read more here.

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