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Alabama Workforce Council proposes merger with state workforce development system

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A state committee on government efficiency discussed Thursday a proposal to merge the Alabama Workforce Council – a public-private partnership organization that focuses on workforce development – with the similarly focused state-run Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program.

The suggestion was made at a meeting of the Governor’s Study Group on Government Efficiency, a task force created by Gov. Kay Ivey in January to come up with suggestions as to how the state government could run more efficiently. The group is made up of ten state finance leaders appointed by Ivey.

Phil Webb, a member of the workforce council, argued a change was needed in how Alabama recruits and trains workers given the state’s low labor participation rate. While the state’s unemployment rate remains historically low, its labor participation rate – which measures how many people are working compared to the entire population – is tied for the fourth-lowest rate in the country.

“I’m here today representing the AWC to request your support in making Alabama’s public workforce system more effective and more efficient,” Webb said to the task force. 

“In Alabama, (there are) three available jobs for every person willing to fill the one. Alabama’s labor force participation rate stands at 57.1%, which is one of the lowest in the country; we’re tied with South Carolina, and rank above only New Mexico, Mississippi and West Virginia in this regard.”

The state-run WIOA program was launched in 2014, and the AWC – which is composed of state government and business leaders – was launched the year after, with both targeting ways to increase the labor participation rate and better recruit and train workers. It was the two groups’ overlapping goals, Webb argued, that would make the state’s workforce development efforts become more efficient if they were merged.

“In hindsight, rather than creating AWC as a separate entity in 2015, it would have been more beneficial to establish a single workforce board; however, it’s not too late to rectify this by merging the AWC and the state WIOA Board,” Webb said.

State Treasurer Young Boozer, chairman of the efficiency task force, noted that while improving workforce development was a major priority in the state, Alabama was not alone in struggling to recruit and retain trained workers.

“What we are looking at, everybody else is looking at,” Boozer said. “They’re looking at how to be more efficient, they’re looking at how to hire, compensate and retain personnel. It is a universal issue, all this is going on everywhere in the country.”

Alabama State Treasurer Young Boozer.


Improving workforce development in the state was a major theme during the 2023 legislative session. 

Signed by Ivey as recently as June 14, Senate Bill 175 created two new programs to bolster workforce development; the ReEngage Alabama Grant Program and the Alabama Short-Term Credential Scholarship Program, which together are aimed at reducing barriers to Alabamians from earning college degrees or work certifications.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, was just one of many attempts this year to improve workforce development, another being FuelAL, a program launched by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama designed to connect undergraduate and graduate students to career opportunities in-state.

The efficiency group must submit to Ivey by Dec. 15 a report on how the state’s more than 150 agencies and departments could operate more efficiently. 

“We are looking at all agencies in the executive branch; what they do and how they do it to see if there is some duplication,” Boozer told Alabama Daily News. “If there is, there might be a change of what they are required to do, it could be that they combine the two, and we’re working on that list.”

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