9 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

5 hours ago

Tuberville campaign bus catches fire; No one injured

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville’s campaign bus caught fire on an interstate in Northeast Alabama on Wednesday.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office at 8:26 p.m. posted two pictures of the bus ablaze at the 227-mile marker of I-59 northbound.

Tuberville was not aboard the vehicle at the time.

The only occupant, a volunteer driving the bus, escaped unharmed. The exact cause of the fire was not immediately known.


The bus has been a staple of Tuberville’s “The People vs. The Swamp” campaign tour across Alabama during this election cycle.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News later in the evening, Tuberville campaign manager Paul Shashy said, “Coach Tuberville’s candidacy has obviously caught fire with voters…and our bus has, too. We are thankful that no one was hurt in the incident and for the remarkable first responders who assisted immediately. The fire occurred on a test drive shortly after maintenance.”

Tuberville will face former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on July 14 in Alabama’s Republican senatorial primary runoff. The GOP nominee will go on to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

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

11 hours ago

Army secretary visits Dynetics facility in Huntsville — ‘What you do protects our way of life’

HUNTSVILLE — Secretary of the United States Army Ryan McCarthy visited a facility in Huntsville on Wednesday. He talked about the necessity of cutting edge military technology and thanked employees for their hard work during the coronavirus pandemic.

The location McCarthy visited, the Dynetics MidCity Aerospace Integration Facility, is a new satellite building of Dynetics in Huntsville that is still under construction.

The facility will construct Hypersonic Glide Body for missiles that will be able to travel the distance between Huntsville and Los Angeles in under 13 minutes according to Paul Turner, the project manager at Dynetics who oversees the facility.

McCarthy said the military needed weapons like the ones produced in part in Huntsville “to ensure that we have the technological margin on the battlefield to win for decades to come.”


“The work you do here will affect our future,” added the secretary.

“Know what you do protects our way of life,” he told the Dynetics employees.

RELATED: Alabama leads development of U.S. Army’s hypersonic weapons — ‘A critical priority’

Tuesday was the 46th anniversary of Dynetics’ founding. The company, purchased in 2019, is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos Incorporated.

The MidCity expansion is due to completed by year’s end, according to Turner. The exact details of the manufacturing and production that will take place inside is classified by the federal government.

Details provided to the press say that the building will have an environmental testing lab for examining the effects certain conditions have on manufactured materials. The facility will also see an amount of assembly, production and integration of some of the most advanced hypersonic weapons in the military’s arsenal.

Hypersonic weapons can travel at MACH 5, five times faster than the speed of sound, or about 13,000 miles per hour.

The building is 190,000 square feet and will be used entirely for classified manufacturing and assembly.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

Displayed outside of the facility on Wednesday was the type of truck that would transport and provide launching capabilities for the hypersonic weapons manufactured in part at the new Dynetics facility.

Before the weapons assembled in Huntsville are ready for integration into the military’s arsenal they are shipped to a Lockheed Martin facility in Portland, Oregon, where they undergo a final set of integrations according to Turner.

The goal is to have them deployed on the battlefield by 2023, he added.

“The reason why I wanted to come down here was to thank all of you for enduring the hardships of this COVID-19 pandemic,” said McCarthy to the assembled Dynetics employees on Wednesday.

(The secretary stayed for a few minutes after his remarks to thank personally several assembled employees.) (Henry Thornton/YHN)

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05), who represents the district containing the new Dynetics plant, told Yellowhammer News he would like to “thank Secretary McCarthy for taking the time out of his busy schedule to see the Tennessee Valley’s important and exceptional national security work on missile defense, hypersonics weapons, directed energy and the like.”

Brooks said he was voting on defense bills in Washington so he could not be there in person, but Brooks added that he was glad that it was being acknowledged that “[m]any of the world’s best engineers, scientists, and professionals make up the Redstone Arsenal community” in Huntsville.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) tweeted, “[Secretary of the Army McCarthy’s] visit to Dynetics in Huntsville highlights the critical role Alabama plays in defending our nation. Proud the [United States Army] is prioritizing the development of hypersonic systems and pleased Secretary McCarthy saw firsthand the progress being made in our state.”

Secretary McCarthy himself was bullish on the United States’ fight against the coronavirus during his speech.

“Our researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Development Command are central to the vaccine development, and grinding towards an outcome where we’re going to have advance therapeutics and vaccines delivering at scale to the American people by the late fall of this year,” McCarthy told the audience.

McCarthy acknowledged that the wait between now and late fall was going to feel like a long time.

“Hard times don’t last, hard people do,” he said near his conclusion.

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

11 hours ago

Alexander Shunnarah donates 777 pizzas to frontline workers at two Alabama hospitals

Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. recently participated in a national challenge to feed frontline heroes across the United States.

A release from Shunnarah’s firm outlined that many essential workers are frequently working long hours while risking their own health and safety during these difficult times — so the firm wanted to do something to show their appreciation.

The challenge – for law firms to purchase 777 pizzas from their local pizzerias to feed frontline workers — was initially started by Larry Nussbaum of Boston’s Nussbaum Law Group, PC.

The number is a nod to the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, which codifies the right to a jury trial in certain civil cases and inhibits courts from overturning a jury’s findings of fact.


Shunnarah purchased more than $8,000 worth of pizzas from Slice Pizza and Brewhouse and Pizzeria GM for health care workers at UAB Hospital and St. Vincent’s Hospital.

“Participating in this challenge was a true honor and small token of our firm’s appreciation for healthcare staff in our community and across the nation,” Shunnarah said in a statement.

“With this challenge we were able to help local restaurants and our frontline heroes who have been going above and beyond the call of duty throughout this pandemic,” he added.

Shunnarah accepted this challenge from Laborde Earles in Lafayette, Louisiana. After completing it in Birmingham, Shunnarah challenged Scott, Vicknair, Hair & Checki in New Orleans, as well as Disability Attorneys of Michigan.

RELATED: Alexander Shunnarah wins national Golden Gavel Award

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

12 hours ago

Dale Jackson: Requiring cloth coverings is a violation of your freedom? No, please wear a mask when prudent

As a conservative commentator, columnist, TV host and radio host I have had my fair share of run-ins with callers, guests, friends and enemies alike who insist that wearing a cloth covering over their face is a violation of some non-existent right to not have their pie-hole covered.

Show me where it is in the Constitution — either the United States or 1901 Alabama Constitution — and we can talk.

You can’t, so we won’t.

What I will do is tell you where all of this is heading if we don’t pull our heads out of the sand and start wearing masks in larger numbers — like we did when all of this started.

Your city, town and the State of Alabama will at some point mandate the wearing of masks.


Just wait. If the numbers continue to rise, the restrictions will return.

You will whine, “But … Dale! They can’t make me wear a piece of cloth over a part of my body.”

They can.

Alabama Code 13A-12-130

(a) A person commits the crime of public lewdness if:

(1) He exposes his anus or genitals in a public place and is reckless about whether another may be present who will be offended or alarmed by his act;  or

(2) He does any lewd act in a public place which he knows is likely to be observed by others who would be affronted or alarmed.

(b) Public lewdness is a Class C misdemeanor.

Is your nose the same as your genitals? No.

Is your mouth the same as your anus? No.

Now, I am not a simple small-town southern lawyer, but I think that I could probably rationalize a similar law for the part of your body that expels droplets that contain the coronavirus.

Should they? No.

Mandatory mask ordinances and orders are a bad idea because they are generally unenforceable, but the ignorant resistance to this is just as asinine.

I’ve been told masks cut oxygen and cause people to pass out.

This is clearly not true. The guy working at Walmart wears a mask eight hours a day, and he can power through it.

I’ve been told rape victims and people with autism can’t wear masks.

Let’s ignore that. Even if true, this has nothing to do with the science and is just a ridiculous red herring. This is not about 100% compliance.

I have been told that the surgeon general said not to wear masks early on in this pandemic.

What changed?

A lot.

1. The numbers
2. The understanding of the virus
3. The availability of PPE

The government shouldn’t be in the business of policing this, because it would require the police to make this work.

But what about our new socially conscious corporations? They are all about performative wokeness and their ham-fisted statements about “Pride” and #BlackLivesMatter this month, right?

If they really believe that #BlackLivesMatter (or #AllLivesMatter), they should require people to wear masks inside their stores. Obviously, this puts the enforcement on an hourly retail employee and places their employees against an army of people who don’t know what they are talking about.

Go on social media, and see how reasonable those people are.

But if they believe this is important, make these people act out. Shame them.

Here is the bottom line: All the people who refuse to wear masks in indoor public-settings have nothing on their side except the willingness to be stubborn.

The anti-mask crowd and the folks rioting in the streets are very similar in attitude, but the anti-mask crowd doesn’t have the guts to actually do anything.

They express it online and on social media, but they are an obnoxious minority, and anonymity breeds stupidity. But the Internet is not real life.

Overall, 65% of U.S. adults say that they have personally worn a mask in stores or other businesses all or most of the time in the past month, while 15% say they did this some of the time. Relatively small shares of adults say they hardly ever (9%) or never (7%) wore a mask in the past month, and 4% say they have not gone to these types of places.

Polling shows most Americans support wearing masks, but more should be doing it. Unfortunately, those that need to be convinced are unwilling to be reasoned with.

This attitude only drags out this issue, makes it worse, and damages our state further.

Also, President Donald Trump disagrees with this line of thinking, and agrees with me.

If this petulant attitude keeps up and numbers of cases keep rising, you will see more ordinances, and a state-wide mandate will follow.

Wear the stupid mask in public, or the government will attempt to make you.

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

13 hours ago

Season 2 Episode 2: Best Auburn athlete nicknames

As we continue to be without sports, hopefully for not much longer, the guys talk about their favorite Auburn nicknames from “Smoke” to the “Round Mound of Rebound.” They also discuss some of the recent happenings in recruiting, Auburn transfer news and Jared Harper’s new team.

Please note: As usual, this episode was recorded right before something newsworthy happened in the Auburn realm, so Cam Newton to the Patriots will be addressed in the next one.