Alabama Workforce Council looks to future of work in Alabama

Cooperation, collaboration and coordination were the key takeaways from the recent meeting of the Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) public-private partnership committee. Held Nov. 18 at Birmingham’s Red Mountain Theatre, the meeting was the first in-person gathering since 2019 for the committee, which focuses on building the highly skilled workforce Alabama needs to meet current and future challenges and opportunities.

The AWC includes leaders of business, government and education from across Alabama. Aligning current needs and future goals in the area of ​​workforce development is a primary objective of the public-private partnership committee. That includes coordinating programs and policies for eliminating job barriers and supporting community-based investments in education and training to ensure that future workforce needs are met.

“Our job is alleviating barriers to Alabama’s workforce,” said Phil Webb, owner of Heflin-based Webb Concrete and Building Materials and chair of the AWC public-private partnership committee. “Facilitating opportunities for high-wage skills and careers has never been more important to the present and future of Alabama and its people than it is right now.”

Webb said promoting greater cooperation among Alabama’s seven Regional Workforce Councils is a priority as the committee works to address issues and identify opportunities for investing time and resources in workforce development. He also pointed to partnerships with approximately 40 nonprofits across Alabama that are critical partners in ensuring the state’s ability to compete successfully for the jobs of the future — and for federal grants that can shorten the runway to competitiveness.

“Nonprofits are cooperating more and more purposefully,” said Hallie Bradley, strategic initiatives manager for the Alabama Power Foundation, which hosted the meeting. In addition to AWC, the foundation supports workforce development through grantmaking in strategic areas.

“We look at services that help people at all levels of the workforce,” Bradley said of the foundation’s approach. “We want to help nonprofits coordinate around shared goals, including securing federal grants that impact workforce development issues in their localities and statewide.”

The meeting’s keynote was provided by Mary Ila Ward, owner of Horizon Point Consulting and a Huntsville-based workforce and leadership development specialist. Ward offered advice on successfully navigating a working world altered for both employers and employees.

A panel discussion highlighted the city of Birmingham’s progress in implementing a $10.8 million “Good Jobs Challenge” grant awarded by the US Department of Commerce as part of the American Rescue Plan. On the panel were Amanda Muller, civic design principal in the office of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin; Zhaundra C. Jones, vice president of philanthropy and learning for the Women’s Foundation of Alabama; and Emily Wykle, key accounts manager for startup accelerator gener8tor and current board chair of the workforce development nonprofit Central Six AlabamaWorks! The conversation was moderated by JW Carpenter, president of Prosper Birmingham.

The commerce department grant enabled creation of the Birmingham Region Health Partnership, a healthcare workforce training program. Targeted to women, people of color and other traditionally underserved communities, the program will increase access to high-quality healthcare jobs — including wraparound services such as transportation and childcare — while building a pipeline of skilled workers. In addition to the city of Birmingham, the partnership is supported by Jefferson County, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, the Birmingham Business Alliance, Innovate Birmingham, Prosper and Central Six.

“This demonstrates the value of collaboration,” Jones said of the regional health partnership. “Building the partnerships we need to succeed makes us stronger.”

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

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