At no time in history has workforce development been more important.
During the Economic Developers Association of Alabama’s 2014 Winter Conference in Hoover, leaders from the across the state discussed the challenges, solutions and future landscape of workforce for Alabama. Economic development and workforce development are inextricably linked. A skilled workforce is cited as a key factor in business and industry decision to locate or expand in a state.
Gov. Robert Bentley, during his speech to the more than 300 economic developers, noted the way to fight poverty is to educate people and give them opportunities for jobs.
But many employers are struggling to fill certain types of vacancies in computer technology, manufacturing and other fields that require postsecondary education and training. I champion the belief that business and industry must take a stronger role than ever before in serving as a catalyst for helping advance the state’s approach to train our workforce.
Business and industry leaders need to be at the table to open up dialogue between business and education as well as assist K-12 and both the two-year and four-year college systems in workforce-related strategies and actions.
For example, more schools should invite businesses into the classroom to aid in explaining workplace practices to school life. This allows students the chance to put their classroom-based learning into real-life context and value these real-life examples. The public-private partnership of private sector businesses aligned with the state and education would go a long way in making sure Alabamians enter the workforce as well as advance by increasing their skills.
Alabama already is committed to workforce development through a number of initiatives such as the Governor’s College and Career Ready Task Force to the Retention component of the state’s larger economic development plan, Accelerate Alabama.
But success ultimately will depend, in part, on leadership and cooperation from the private sector. Business and industry provide employment opportunities for Alabama residents and, in turn, are dependent on a well-trained workforce. Active participation by business and industry is essential if we are to align business needs with classroom teaching.
Bill Taylor, EDPA President