4 months ago

Workforce development identified as most pressing issue at Yellowhammer small business panel

TRUSSVILLE — Workforce development drove the conversation at this week’s Yellowhammer News Shapers event at the Trussville Civic Center. The panel of small business experts quickly reached a consensus that developing a qualified, skilled workforce is the top issue facing Alabama’s job creators now and in the future.

“We have a significant shortage of qualified workers,” explained panel participant Rosemary Elebash, Alabama state director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

And Elebash is in a position to know.

She outlined her group’s process for determining its agenda, revealing that individual members vote on which issues the group pursues and that developing a qualified workforce was far and away the pressing issue for them.

Elebash warned that the worker shortage problem “is looming and it does not matter the industry.”

Mike Milam, owner of Milam & Co. construction company, agreed with Elebash’s assessment on Alabama’s workforce needs and said it is something his business has had to deal with on a consistent basis.

Milam said he is also focused on retaining his current workforce.

“We have to make our place of business a place where they want to stay there,” he remarked.

Citing a recent initiative by Governor Kay Ivey, Elebash said there will be a need for 500,000 new workers in the next five years in order to meet the needs of Alabama’s economy.

She disclosed that this has already been felt by small business owners as a result of people retiring and leaving the workforce during the same period of time when businesses are attempting to grow.

“Our businesses are not able to grow because we can’t find the people to work,” she said.

State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) stressed the urgency with which the state must bolster its job training programs.

A member of Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth’s workforce development council, Garrett said the work the group has done with a special consultant has allowed them to gain a better understanding of the direction policy makers need to go.

“What you find out is that there are a lot of workforce development initiatives going on all across the state but they are all being done in individual silos and not necessarily connected,” Garrett said. “It’s hard to determine if we’re all moving in the same direction. We want to bring them all together and determine what is the best way forward.”

For Garrett, the best way forward involves being mindful of how technology will impact jobs.

He pointed to a study presented to the Lt. Gov.’s workforce council which concluded 40% of workers today are likely to be displaced by 2030, either through automation or technology.

Garrett used the example of ordering kiosks in restaurants as a way automation will change the way business is done.

“The food service industry will be dramatically impacted,” he said.

That’s why he sees careful planning as vital to the overall effort.

“Not only do we need to develop our workforce for current jobs, we’ve got to get out front and understand where we are going,” advised Garrett.

Whichever direction the state ends up going with its workforce, the clear consensus of the panel was that it will take significant collaboration among all stakeholders in Alabama’s economy.

Elebash said NFIB was partnering with the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) to address the issue. ACCS chancellor Jimmy Baker and vice chancellor Jeff Lynn are meeting with groups of small businesses to discuss workforce needs, she said.

One example, Elebash mentioned, of how this partnership has led to a curriculum change occurred at the Alabama Aviation College in Ozark. She said the commercial driver’s license program adopted a training program based on the needs of local businesses, with those businesses helping to provide the equipment in which the drivers-in-training could learn.

RELATED: Small businesses, job-seekers set to benefit from reforms to unemployment law

“We are fortunate in this respect: Dr. Baker understands who the customer is,” remarked Elebash. “And the customer is the business owner who hires the product who is the student. The school is the provider.”

As vice chairman of the education budget committee, Garrett shared in the belief that the community colleges are playing a crucial role in workforce development.

“There has been a concerted effort in the last three sessions to look at funding for the community colleges because that’s really where the bulk of this training is going to come from,” he explained.

He emphasized further that having the community colleges being separated out from the state school board has had a positive impact on workforce training because they are now “laser focused” on that effort.

As a member of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Board, Milam said he is just now gaining an understanding of the job training programs that are out there, particularly those administered through AIDT. He feels more people should take advantage of AIDT’s programs to go out and help small businesses with their workforce needs.

Another workforce development initiative discussed by the panel was the state’s burgeoning apprenticeship program established through the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Milam remarked that participating in an apprenticeship program could be helpful to a business like his.

“Some of our most successful hiring has come through the co-op program,” he said. “I could see where we would hire two or three people immediately [through the apprenticeship program].”

Efforts to streamline the administration of the apprenticeship program will benefit small business, according to Elebash. She worked with state agencies to cut some of the excess paperwork and red tape originally associated with the program.

Apprenticeships can pay dividends in the construction industry, Milam believes.

“In our business, it’s in the ditch where you learn and then you go to the next phase and then the next phase,” he said. “We have to develop them internally.”

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

Elebash provided those in the audience with a final recommendation moving forward, and that was to continue electing leaders who understand the challenges facing small business.

She highlighted the pristine voting records of Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06), State Senators Shay Shelnutt and Dan Roberts and Garrett. She said each had a 100% voting record for small business.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 hours ago

Sessions hits Jones over finding impeachment case ‘compelling’ — ‘Merely repeating the partisan attacks of Congressman Adam Schiff’

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not happy with Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Sessions sent out a forceful response to Yellowhammer News’ reporting on Friday morning that Jones found the evidence against President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial “compelling.”

“Senator Doug Jones’ recent video appears to indicate that he is planning to vote to remove Donald Trump from the office of President of the United States. He is merely repeating the partisan attacks of Congressman Adam Schiff,” began Sessions.

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Sessions said he feels Jones is “not even attempting” to represent the people of Alabama.

Presumably, this is a reference to Jones’ openness to impeaching Trump, who sports around a 60% approval rating among the people of Alabama. It is also good political hay for Sessions to make in a Republican primary where Trump’s approval rating hovers around 90%.

“The Democrats do not allege any crime, nor do the vague charges in the articles of impeachment rise to a level that would justify the removal of our duly-elected President,” added Sessions.

Sessions this week was the subject of a much speculated-about Trump tweet that showed a poll from 2019 that had Sessions leading the field of contenders in the Republican primary.

To conclude his statement on impeachment, Sessions said, “The entire matter is being revealed as a political hit job, paid for by the taxpayers.”

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

4 hours ago

Tuberville: ‘Trump has done more for the rights of the unborn than any other President’

After President Donald J. Trump on Friday became the first sitting president in history to address the March for Life in Washington, D.C., former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville praised Trump’s staunch pro-life stance.

Tuberville is a candidate in Alabama’s 2020 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

Trump’s speech can be viewed below:

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Tuberville said in a statement to Yellowhammer News, “President Trump attending the March For Life Rally is a victory for all in the Pro-Life movement.”

“President Trump has done more for the rights of the unborn than any other President,” he concluded. “I’ll continue to fight for the unborn with President Trump when elected to the Senate. It’s simple: life begins at conception!”

Friday’s March for Life occurred two days after the 47th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

RELATED: Tuberville ‘all for’ abortion ban — ‘You’ve got to take your hat off to not just Alabama but other states’ on effort to overturn Roe v. Wade

One of the other featured speakers at the 2020 March for Life has a major Alabama tie.

David Platt, formerly the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, was highlighted on the March for Life’s website as a keynote speaker. Platt made national news last year when Trump showed up to his current church in Virginia; the pastor then movingly prayed over the president on stage.

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

5 hours ago

Bama, Auburn combine for three of four SEC players in 2020 State Farm All-Star Football Challenge

The 22nd annual State Farm All-Star Football Challenge will return to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and air on ESPN2 at 8:00 p.m. CT on January 31.

The exclusive skills competition will feature 24 of college football’s brightest stars divided into six teams based on their college conference. The conferences represented are the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12, the SEC and four of the best players outside of the Power Five that will be called the “Wild Card” team.

Of the four players on the SEC team, the University of Alabama had two, Auburn had one and Vanderbilt had the fourth and final player.

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Team SEC as follows:

Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Riley Neal, QB, Vanderbilt

Each player will individually participate in a timed event, and the competition will then finish with a full team event. All events will be timed and have individual winners, which will be compiled into a cumulative score to determine the winning team. For example, the quarterbacks from each team will compete against each other to win their competition. Ultimately, however, their time will be added to the times of the other competitors on their conference designated team to have a final team score.

Individual events will include the State Farm QB Accuracy Competition, the Mercedes-Benz Obstacle Course, the Rocket Mortgage Strength Challenge and the Hands Competition. To conclude the program, the players will compete as teams in the State Farm Team Competition.

Alumni of the State Farm All-Star Football Challenge include 81 first-round NFL Draft picks, including 38 Pro Bowlers, such as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Ramsey, Dalvin Cook, Derwin James, Landon Collins, Von Miller, Vernon Davis, Joe Flacco, Dez Bryant, Donovan McNabb, Reggie Wayne and Edgerrin James.

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

5 hours ago

Alabama finishes decade with record low unemployment rate, sets more economic milestones

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington on Friday announced that the state maintained its record low unemployment rate last month, ending 2019 with a preliminary, seasonally adjusted December unemployment rate of 2.7%, unchanged from November, and far below December 2018’s rate of 3.8%.

Multiple other economic records were again set last month, in addition to the record low unemployment rate holding steady.

In a statement, Governor Kay Ivey said, “I’m so proud to be able to close out this decade with record-breaking economic measures.”

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December’s unemployment rate, which ranked fifth-lowest in the nation, represented 2,204,740 employed people, a new record high, representing an increase of 83,971 from December 2018. Additionally, 61,458 people were counted as unemployed, another new record and a drop of 22,051 from last year. Moreover, the civilian labor force grew by 61,920 over the year to a new record high of 2,266,198.

“All year long, we’ve had good news to share, and to be able to end the year, and the decade, on such a positive note is wonderful,” the governor concluded. “Earlier this year, Alabama had never reported an unemployment rate lower than 3.0%, and now we’ve had one for the last three months! Nearly 84,000 more people have jobs now than last year. I’m excited about the path that Alabama is on, and the positive impacts this news has on our people.”

Wage and salary employment grew over the year by 46,300. Yearly gains were seen in the professional and business services sector (+15,000), the leisure and hospitality sector (+7,800) and the government sector (+6,100), among others. Over the month, gains were seen in the trade, transportation and utilities sector (+4,000), the construction sector (+700) and the professional and business services sector (+200).

“For the eleventh month in a row, our job growth has met or surpassed the nation’s,” Washington stated. “We’ve gained over 46,000 jobs since last December, and we continue to see employers posting job ads.”

Additionally, Alabama’s job growth rate for December was 2.2%. It significantly surpassed the national job growth rate of 1.4%, marking the 11th month that Alabama’s job growth rate matched or exceeded the national rate in 2019.

“Average weekly wages showed significant growth this month, registering at an all-time high,” Washington added. “Additionally, we saw many sectors and subsectors reach all-time wage highs, including manufacturing, with a monthly wage increase of $25.57, and financial activities, with a monthly wage increase of $50.78.”

Total private average weekly wages measured $875.44 in December, representing a monthly increase of $15.14.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates last month were: Shelby County at 1.8%; Marshall, Madison and Cullman Counties at 2.1%; and Tuscaloosa, St. Clair, Morgan, Limestone, Lee and Elmore Counties at 2.2%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were: Wilcox County at 6.8%, Clarke County at 5.5% and Greene and Lowndes Counties at 4.8%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates were: Vestavia Hills at 1.4%, Homewood at 1.6% and Hoover and Northport at 1.7%.

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates were: Prichard at 5.0%, Selma at 4.9% and Bessemer at 3.7%.

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

6 hours ago

What does Trump’s tweet say about his position on the U.S. Senate race in Alabama?

After remaining silent on the GOP primary in 2020 U.S. Senate race for the state of Alabama, the President of the United States has checked in via Twitter.

But what does it mean?

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The answer to this question all depends on how you lean in the race.

Do you support former Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

Trump is happy he is leading!

Do you support former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville?

Trump is happy that Tuberville is close to Sessions (he did tweet a poll put out by a pro-Tuberville group)!

Do you support U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope)?

Trump is bringing attention to the race to get people to pay attention to all of the ads on television and radio by the Byrne campaign.

Do you support former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore?

Hey, at least Trump didn’t say he wanted Moore out of the race again.

Do you support State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs)?

Hey look, Arnold Mooney is included!

Do you support Stanley Adair?

Hi, Stanley!

Before anyone gets too excited, Trump was tweeting about a bunch of races, so maybe it means nothing.

Also, let’s remember that Trump was 0-2 in 2017. He backed then- Senator Luther Strange (R-AL) for reelection to the seat he was appointed to and he then begrudgingly backed Roy Moore. Obviously, the existence of U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) shows he was not successful in either endeavor.

Because of this, President Donald Trump should just sit this one out.

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