2 months ago

Shift to knowledge-based economy driving Birmingham’s workforce development efforts

In crafting what he calls a “supercharged” workforce development program, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin drew from his own early experience in the workforce as well as input from some of his city’s largest job creators.

Woodfin sat down recently with Yellowhammer News to outline his city’s innovative approach to workforce development through its Birmingham Promise – an apprenticeship and scholarship program made possible by a public-private partnership with area employers.

Having been part of a program where he left class early to attend a job in his junior and senior years of high school, Woodfin learned invaluable lessons as part of that work experience.

“I tell people I am able to be mayor because at my first job at a grocery store I got trained in soft skills and never looked back,” he said.

And feedback from employers has helped shape the direction of the program.

“As mayor, I’m afforded the opportunity to talk to CEOs all the time in various sectors,” Woodfin explained. “They talk about their workforce gaps. We also talk about how do we recruit industry to the city and expand and grow jobs. You do that by investing in your youngest generation and investing in your workforce. This is a full down payment on investing in our workforce.”

With September designated as National Workforce Development month, numerous ongoing campaigns have developed to highlight the scope of Alabama’s workforce development demands.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump, visited Tanner, Alabama, Tuesday to support an apprenticeship program conducted through the National Association of Manufacturing.

Woodfin leads a city facing a welcome shift in the focus of its economy. He believes Birmingham Promise will meet those needs under what he calls “a very sustainable model.”

It is a model that will be tested by changing workforce needs.

The challenges of a new economy

Josh Carpenter, director of economic development for Birmingham, described to Yellowhammer News the fact that the city’s workforce needs have altered as a result of a shift to a knowledge-based economy.

Carpenter pointed to the online delivery service Shipt, which employs more than 1,000 people in Birmingham, to show that the skills for a digital-based company are far different than those emphasized in more traditional career training. He said a whole new group of innovators have made Birmingham their home and in doing so present more workforce challenges.

Woodfin called workforce development a “high priority” for his administration and envisions Birmingham Promise as the primary initiative for meeting those challenges.

Students in their junior and senior years will have access to apprenticeships in industry clusters which include business and finance, energy and engineering, healthcare and life sciences and information technology.

Birmingham school system graduates will have access to support for full-time apprenticeships or last-dollar funding at two-year and four-year public colleges in Alabama. Last-dollar funding means the program supplements any tuition balance after scholarships and grants from other sources have been paid out to the enrollee.

To be eligible for the scholarship program, students must live in Birmingham and have graduated from a Birmingham public school. Scholarship funds are awarded proportionally to the student’s time in the school system in order to maintain fairness and prevent misuse of the program.

The Birmingham Promise was one of nine programs to receive a grant from the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA). Funders for PAYA include Ballmer Group, Bloomberg Philanthropies and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

Promise partners in Birmingham and the surrounding region include large employers in healthcare, energy, construction, banking, manufacturing and insurance.

Funding from these partners will largely sustain the program.

‘Birmingham’s competitive advantage’

One such partner is Lee Styslinger III, chairman and CEO of Altec, Inc. Styslinger has served on President Donald Trump’s commission on American manufacturing. He is also part of an ongoing national effort to ensure workers acquire the necessary skills in a rapidly changing economy.

Styslinger views an increased emphasis on workforce development as essential to growth.

“The Birmingham Promise represents a transformational investment in the future of our region’s workforce,” he told Yellowhammer News. “In a knowledge-based economy, a skilled workforce will become Birmingham’s competitive advantage and change the area’s economic trajectory. Altec was pleased to help champion the apprenticeship program this summer, and we view the Birmingham Promise as an investment in the future of our company.”

Under the apprenticeship program in which Styslinger’s company participated, students receive $7.50 per hour from their employer and an additional $7.50 per hour from the city of Birmingham.

Woodfin says that workforce measurements are put in place “to make sure people are not just going to a job sitting in front of a computer and to make sure people are gaining exposure and matriculating through an actual apprenticeship program.”

He added that any child who wants to participate in the apprenticeship program will be allowed to and completion will result in the achievement of a certain amount of credit hours.

Woodfin aims to have between 150 and 300 students slotted for apprenticeships during the first year. He estimates the annual cost at $2 million per year once the program is up and running at full potential.

Program funding is administered through the United Way and a website is set up to collect private contributions.

“We believe this is a small down payment on investing in not only our youngest generation but our workforce,” Woodfin explained. “When you think about these major clusters that drive Birmingham’s economy, we have to say what are we prepared to do and what are we willing to do to make sure we are intentional about closing these workforce gaps, training the workforce.”

The mayor identifies communication between the partners as vital to the program.

“It is important for the city to remain aware of the private sector’s workforce gaps,” Woodfin said.

He explained that the program creates a workforce that can immediately go into action out of high school because it has been exposed for at least two years to the culture and climate of specific companies.

“It’s the ability for them to understand what responsibility means and work ethic and being on time and all these things,” Woodfin said. “It’s very important.”

And for those who choose to pursue a degree beyond high school, the previous exposure may lead to opportunities for that graduate.

Woodfin often uses the acronym “CPA” to illustrate his viewpoint on workforce. He describes it as “Creating” jobs, “Preparing” people and ensuring “Access” to those jobs.

“The Birmingham Promise hinges on the ‘P,'” he outlined. “The business community is responsible for creating the jobs, but I believe the city of Birmingham and the school system, in partnership, is responsible for preparing people for those jobs. Hence, the Birmingham Promise.”

“Corporate Birmingham has a bottom line as it relates to the gaps in its workforce,” he continued. “We’re saying partner with us to close those gaps. It works for the small business owner, it works for the entrepreneur, it works for a corporation because they have gaps, and this is a way long-term and short-term to close those gaps.”

A pilot program for all of Alabama

With Alabama ramping up its own workforce development efforts at the state government level, Carpenter thinks collaboration between Birmingham and state leaders is the natural next step.

“There are a lot of ways we think the policy considerations at the state level can be tested out here in the city of Birmingham, so we’re going to be pretty aggressive about making those connections,” mentioned Carpenter. “Having an office of apprenticeships with clear goals, our interests are tightly aligned with theirs. We want to be a pilot for them. We want to be a city that statewide people are looking at for apprenticeships and development of workers.”

He sees the partnerships the state has formed with the private sector as a model for Birmingham.

“I think what they’ve done is remarkable to encourage companies to be a part of it,” added Carpenter.

As with most ambitious programs, evidence of success for Birmingham Promise will take a couple of different forms, according to Carpenter.

“Our immediate goal is we want to connect 2,000 young workers to jobs in five years,” he outlined. “That’s the immediate goal. If we do that, we will be successful.”

There is another way, however, that Carpenter aspires to qualify success.

“When people around the country look up and say, ‘That city is serious about its talent workforce development,’” he will know the program is succeeding.

He recalled a recent conversation with a company in Silicon Valley contemplating expansion at a new location. Carpenter told them, “Birmingham has to be the place that you can grow.”

The conversation turned to what Birmingham has to offer — now and in the future.

“We talked about the type of talent they could find here and the way that they can grow,” Carpenter continued. “If we are very serious about investing in talent and people see that, I think it’s going to change the way Birmingham’s economy is developed. We have two goals there. One is to make sure companies really feel like Birmingham is the place they can grow and expand their business. And the other goal is obviously to make sure young people in our community feel like being a part of our community is getting a quality job and they find a sure pathway to that quality job.”

‘Not failure but low aim is sin’

Motivating Woodfin in his quest to improve Birmingham’s economy and communities through workforce development is a quote from civil rights icon Benjamin E. Mays, who said, “Not failure but low aim is sin.”

Woodfin’s commitment to the program is unwavering.

“This is bold but it needs to be done,” he concluded. “We’re going to meet the mark because our youngest generation is depending on us to meet the mark.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer News

1 hour ago

Bradley Byrne slams Democrats’ allegation of ‘bribery’ against President Trump

Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01) gave a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday where he slammed Democrats’ latest allegation of “bribery” against President Donald Trump.

“Unfortunately, I must rise again because – like so many times before – the goalposts for impeaching President Trump have moved,” Byrne stated. “At this rate, Nancy Pelosi must be any field goal kicker’s worst nightmare.”

“Since day one – literally day one – it has been abundantly clear that the far-left members of the so-called ‘Squad’ have been moving this Democratic majority closer to impeaching the President,” Byrne continued. “They don’t care why or how. They don’t care what evidence, real or imagined, is used. They only care about the end result – impeaching President Trump so he will not win reelection.”

He added, “As this radical faction gains dominance in the Democrat party, Speaker Pelosi has tried every justification in the book to impeach this president.”

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Byrne then recalled the Democrats’ previous, failed attempts at destroying the Trump administration.

“We were told for years we’d get to impeachment from the Mueller report,” Byrne said. “They said, just wait, wait till the report! It’s going to show Russian Collusion! Well, two years and millions of dollars down the drain, Mueller showed no collusion. The Democrat narrative quickly turned towards ‘obstruction of justice,’ but that too fell flat.”

“But then, Mr. Speaker, the majority got a new gift – the whistleblower,” he continued. “Never mind he had no firsthand knowledge of what he blew the whistle on, never mind he’s a partisan Democrat, never mind he worked with Adam Schiff on his new allegations against President Trump.”

The rest of Byrne’s remarks are as follows:

It was campaign finance violations! Well, that didn’t work. So, then it was quid pro quo! For weeks, that’s all the majority has talked about. Not anymore. Apparently, Mr. Speaker, some highly-paid political consultants warned Speaker Pelosi that quid pro quo did not resonate with the American people. So now, it seems they’ve moved on to another version of impeachment that tested best in their focus groups – the nefarious-sounding ‘bribery.’ It’s bribery! That’s what we will impeach President Trump on!

Well, Mr. Speaker, I think my friends on the other side need to dust off their law books because, unfortunately for their latest impeachment fantasy, bribery isn’t just some word. It’s a real crime with a real definition. And it’s one that this majority cannot prove.

You see, bribery occurs when an individual ‘corruptly’ links receiving something of value in exchange for an official government action.

I say to the majority, show me how asking Ukraine to look into the 2016 election and into the sketchy dealings of Hunter Biden is acting corruptly! Because I’ll tell you what, I’ll show you evidence that Ukrainian officials were working to boost Secretary Clinton, and I’ll show you evidence that the Obama Administration was itself concerned about Hunter Biden’s deals. I think most Americans will say maybe the President of the United States should be looking into those things. I think they will say we want the President looking into possible corruption in our government and interference in our elections.

More importantly, I say to the majority, show me how President Trump linked aid to these investigations! Mr. Speaker, President Trump’s phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky, you know, the one that the whistleblower blew the whistle on, is on the internet! Everyone can read it. And I hope they will. Because nowhere in that call did President Trump ever link any aid to Ukraine in exchange for anything. The President did not one time, not one time, even mention any kind of hold on the aid. Not once!

This is not bribery. This is not impeachable conduct. Yet here we are, trying to remove the President of the United States, the leader of this country, the man chosen by the voters, over these newest allegations. Mr. Speaker, the American people see past this charade. They know this is a partisan political scheme. And at this point, I think most people who are paying attention – those who haven’t tuned out – know this is just the latest effort by Democrats to throw something at the wall and see if it sticks. President Trump has committed no ‘bribery, treason, or high crimes and misdemeanors’ – the only offenses that the Constitution says warrant impeachment.

I ask the majority – when do we stop and get back to the business of the American people? I yield back.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

2 hours ago

Alabama AG Steve Marshall leads national coalition defending Second Amendment to SCOTUS

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall continues to be a staunch defender of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In his latest stalwart act of advocacy for citizens’ right to keep and bear arms, Marshall on Monday filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the State of Alabama and 20 other states.

The brief calls on the Supreme Court to hear (in Malpasso v. Pallozzi) a challenge to a Maryland law that sharply limits the right of typical, law-abiding citizens to carry a handgun outside of the home.

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In a statement, Marshall commented, “The overwhelming majority of states recognize that the Second Amendment allows law-abiding citizens the right to bear arms outside their homes for self-defense.”

“However, a handful of states have decided that citizens’ rights to possess a handgun outside their residence should apply only to when they meet certain limited criteria,” he outlined. “In this case, a Maryland citizen was denied the fundamental right to self-defense because he failed to convince a bureaucrat that he faced some special danger to his safety.”

Marshall continued, “But the right to bear arms is not reserved for just a select few citizens. And there is no question that the Second Amendment right to ‘bear arms’ extends beyond the home. As Justice Clarence Thomas memorably put it: ‘I find it extremely improbable that the Framers understood the Second Amendment to protect little more than carrying a gun from the bedroom to the kitchen.’”

The States of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia joined on to Alabama’s amicus brief.

“A few states have passed laws similar to Maryland’s that severely limit Second Amendment rights, and those laws are rightfully being challenged in federal court as unconstitutional,” Marshall concluded. “Alabama and 20 other states call on the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of Malpasso v. Pallozzi and decide whether laws that deny law-abiding citizens the right to bear arms infringe on Second Amendment rights.”

Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour and Deputy Solicitor General Barrett Bowdre signed onto Marshall’s amicus brief. LaCour is listed as the counsel of record.

RELATED: Steve Marshall takes issue with multi-state lawsuit to keep 3D-printed gun plans off the internet

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

3 hours ago

Roby: Alabama bicentennial amplified by current ‘extreme economic development and job growth’

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02) on Tuesday joined Alabama’s entire U.S. House delegation in honoring the Yellowhammer State’s upcoming bicentennial anniversary on the chamber floor.

In a speech, Roby introduced H. Res. 711, which recognizes the incorporation of Alabama as the 22nd state in the Union on December 14, 1819.

Reps. Bradley Byrne (AL-01), Mike Rogers (AL-03), Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Mo Brooks (AL-05), Gary Palmer (AL-06) and Terri Sewell (AL-07) joined Roby in commemorating the historic milestone.

Roby’s remarks not only mentioned the marker of Alabama’s statehood but lauded its current progress.

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“This is a monumental occasion in our state’s history, and we are looking forward to joining Alabamians in a year full of memorable celebration and commemoration of the bicentennial,” she said. “Alabama is currently experiencing extreme economic development and job growth across the state, which makes this special time even more exciting for us all.”

This comes after it was announced on Friday that Alabama’s unemployment rate dipped below 3% for the first time ever. The state has been breaking economic records consistently, with each month seemingly bringing even better news. The main focus now for the state’s economy is workforce development efforts to increase Alabama’s pool of skilled workers.

Roby, who is not seeking reelection to a sixth term, concluded, “I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve the people of Alabama as we celebrate the birthday and history of the beloved state we all call home.”

Watch:

You can learn more about Alabama’s bicentennial here, including special events across the state.

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

3 hours ago

Technology services veteran appointed to lead State of Alabama’s IT operations

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced that Marty Redden will serve as the permanent Alabama Office of Information Technology (OIT) secretary effective immediately. Redden has been serving as the acting secretary since July.

In a statement, Ivey said, “Since Marty stepped in to OIT as the acting secretary, he has run the agency effectively and with great prudence, and the state will certainly benefit from his leadership in this position. I am confident Marty will continue refining the agency, to make it run successfully and be accountable to the people of Alabama.”

“His decades of experience in the technology field is already paying off for OIT and our other state agencies, which is why I am proud that he will continue serving in this capacity,” she advised.

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Redden has three decades of experience in the IT field, include 20 years in management.

He began his career in banking and finance technology. In 2007, he transitioned to a career in state service. Redden has since held high-level management positions in the Alabama Department of Corrections, the Alabama Medicaid Agency and the state Finance Department. While working with each of these agencies, Redden originated, led and implemented technology advancements and improvements, per a release from the governor’s office.

Redden remarked, “As secretary of OIT, my overriding mission is to provide Alabama’s state government with the best technology services at the smallest cost to the taxpayers we serve. Every service that the state provides to its citizens involve some form of technology, so if we do our job well, countless Alabamians will get the help they need more quickly, efficiently and effectively.”

“I appreciate the confidence Governor Ivey has placed in me and will work every day to prove it justified,” he concluded.

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

4 hours ago

Tua needs our support — Guess who else does

His five words hit home.

Five words that could have been uttered by a Tua Tagovailoa teammate, one of Tua’s parents, an Alabama football fan and, yes, you.

“I feel bad, I’m hurting.”

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Who doesn’t feel bad for one of the greatest quarterbacks not only in Alabama football history, but in college football history? Barring an unlikely return to the Capstone for his senior season, Tua is done in Tuscaloosa. The good news? While it will be a long road, team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain expects Tagovailoa to make a full recovery from the hip injury suffered only days ago. Yes, Tua’s NFL future is bright.

“I feel bad, I’m hurting.”

Those five words could have been uttered by anyone, but the man who said it? Head coach Nick Saban. Yes, the tough, demanding, intimidating coach who rarely reveals his most inner thoughts is hurting, and he shared his heart in Tuscaloosa at his weekly media gathering.

Over the last few days, Saban has been a punching bag for many critics and some fans — their take? The coach is to be blamed for Tua’s injury. After all, they say, it was Saban who had the final say in whether or not his quarterback, still sore from the LSU game and a player who 27 days earlier had ankle surgery, would start against Mississippi State. It was Saban who left Tua in the game despite a big Bama lead deep into the first half of the game. It was Saban who is ultimately responsible for the injury, they allege.

I say hogwash. I say that Nick Saban didn’t hurt Tua, football did.

The bottom line here is that Tua Tagovailoa could have suffered an injury getting off the bus. He could have been injured on his first snap, his final snap or anywhere in between. That’s the cruel sport of football, where injuries occur, even when they are not in the least connected to an earlier injury.

As Tua now begins rehab following Monday’s hip surgery, prayers and well wishes continue to come his way. But I’m here to tell you that Tua’s coach could use some support as well. On the exterior, Nick Saban is all business, the man in charge. He spends long hours at work between 7:30 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. doing what he does. But you can bet that when the coach makes his long, dark drive home late at night, when he tries to fall asleep and when he rises early in the morning, Tua Tagovailoa is on his mind. Is he second-guessing himself? If he is, he shouldn’t be. Do the critics bother him? Remember, even the toughest man on the block has feelings.

Only Nick Saban, Miss Terry and a handful of close friends know what the coach is feeling. As we see a coach who is all business, a coach who has a tough exterior and a no-nonsense flare, I have a strong feeling that Nick Saban is struggling a bit this week. My message? As we pray for Tua and wish him well, perhaps the Alabama football coach can also use our support.

“I feel bad, I’m hurting.”

With those five words, Nick Saban offered us a rare glimpse into his heart. May the Alabama family be reminded that the head of the family can use a few prayers as well.

Rick Karle is a 24-time Emmy winning broadcaster and a special sports contributor to Yellowhammer News. He is also the host of the Huts and Nuts podcast.