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Summit on talent retention, work-based learning underway

MOBILE, Ala. – Despite a record-low unemployment rate of 2.3%, 24 Alabama counties had in January workforce participation rates of less than 50%. The state’s overall labor force participation rate,  the proportion of the working-age population that is either working or actively looking for work, is 56.8%.

“The governor’s office has run multiple surveys to essentially ask those people who are not in the labor market, ‘if you’re not participating, why?’ The number one answer every time has been ‘I don’t have the skills available to do the jobs available,'” Josh Laney, Alabama Office of Apprenticeship director, said. “We can’t pay our way out of the skills gap; we have to train our way out of the skills gap.”

Getting people the skills needed to get them to work is part of the focus of the second annual Governor’s Summit on Talent Retention and Work-Based Learning now underway in Mobile.

The Alabama Office of Apprenticeship and FuelAL, a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, is coordinating the three-day event to bring together more than 300 educators, economic developers and workforce specialists from across the state.

“As we move into my second term, I have doubled down on my commitment to the education and workforce initiatives my administration has launched,” Gov. Kay Ivey said earlier this week. “This Summit will highlight the work of two of the initiatives I am very proud to see continue growing. The Alabama Office of Apprenticeship has led the effort to expand the use of work-based learning and highlight the innovative programs already running in our state. At the same time, the FuelAL initiative is working to find ways to keep Alabama’s post-secondary talent in our state.

“Together, these initiatives serve to build our workforce pipeline to address our own state’s economic needs. We are giving our people the tools to gain the skills they need and working to make Alabama the place they want to live, grow and work to use those talents.”

Nick Moore, the director of the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation, provided an update on Ivey’s effort to align Alabama’s high schools, community colleges and adult education programs to career pathways in high-demand fields on Wednesday.

Ivey set the statewide post-secondary attainment goal of adding 500,00 highly skilled Alabamians to the workforce by 2025. An estimated 214,725 first-time credentials have been earned since 2018 — meeting 43% of the overall goal.

An estimated 49% of Alabama’s population will be ages 25-64 by 2028, a 3% decrease since 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Such numbers serve as a call for workforce specialists to ensure Alabamians of working age are engaged in labor force participation.

“In order to retain the incredible talent that Alabama’s schools graduate, we must recognize the needs and desires of young professionals today,” Miller Girvin, EDPA executive vice president of Innovation and Talent, said. “We’re connecting employers, the talent triad, which I’m super excited about, and all the great workplace learning programs. We know that this conference will serve as a really meaningful intersection to share out ideas, build relationships, and ultimately retain more Alabamians.”

In addition to a luncheon with Ivey today, summit participants will attend breakout and panel sessions focused on topics like career pathways, workforce barriers and work-based learning resources.

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