Alabama is facing a worker shortage crisis. A report issued this month by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rates Alabama as having one of the worst worker shortages among all the states, with only 44 available workers for every 100 open jobs. Less than 57% of our population is either working or actively looking for work. This gives us one of the lowest labor force participation rates in the nation.
We can’t go on like this. A worker shortage has far-reaching, negative impacts. Businesses struggle to find qualified workers, limiting their growth and leading to missed opportunities for investment and job creation. Supply chain problems persist, meaning customers can’t get the goods they need when they need them. Eventually, a worker shortage will create a perfect storm of economic disruption that leads to even higher inflation, a halt to growth and a recession.
The Alabama Community College System’s Innovation Center, in partnership with Alabama business and industry and our state’s leaders, is working at warp speed to fill our state’s labor gap and improve our labor participation rate.
Our Skills for Success program rapidly trains workers in as little as one or two weeks for jobs that employers desperately need to fill. Launched just a little more than one year ago, already 3,300 Alabamians have benefitted from Skills for Success training.
With Skills for Success, current employees can quickly reskill and upskill to fill in-demand jobs, and those wanting the opportunity to work can quickly get coveted, marketable skills that will allow them to basically walk out of training and into a good job.
Skills for Success training also is a great pathway for Alabama high school students who may decide not to pursue a postsecondary education but directly enter the workforce instead. These courses are a great option for them to obtain a skill and credential, so employers know they are ready for work.
There are a couple of features of Skills for Success that make it a standout training initiative. First, Alabama’s businesses and industries have a seat at the table as the courses are developed. We partnered Alabama’s 24 community and technical colleges with employers because employers know best what skills are needed in today’s workforce. By developing this rapid training with Alabama’s business and industry, we ensure the training is aligned with the jobs employers say they need to fill right away.
Second, thanks to investments by state legislators and Gov. Kay Ivey, Skills for Success is provided at no cost to Alabamians enrolled in the training or to the employers who hire them. By helping to meet the state’s most urgent labor needs in a rapid manner, Skills for Success is playing an important part in achieving Ivey’s goal of having 500,000 credentialed workers in Alabama’s workforce by 2025.
The training can be completed quickly because the courses start online and finish on a community college campus or a work site with in-person, hands-on, competency-based training.
The online portion includes “how to” video tutorials featuring Alabama companies and workers, virtual lessons and knowledge tests. Once completed, the trainee moves forward to in-person instruction that simulates real work experience and tests students for mastery of skills.
Once an Alabamian has completed a Skills for Success training course, he or she is awarded an ACCS credential, which signals to employers that the individual has mastered the required skills and is immediately job ready.
Current courses offer training for jobs as commercial truck drivers, fiber optic technicians and installers, meat cutters, passenger and school bus drivers, heavy equipment operators, and food and beverage service workers.
New courses are being developed and will soon be offered to meet the ever-evolving needs of our state’s economy.
As Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker often says, “Every Alabamian deserves an opportunity to succeed in the state’s economy.” That doesn’t mean one has to go to a community college for two years or a university for four. Instead, we have found a way through Skills for Success to expedite high-quality training and rapidly move people into good-paying, in-demand jobs.
This is an obvious benefit to individual Alabamians and employers, but it also helps our state combat the skilled worker shortage that threatens our economy.
Keith Phillips is the Alabama Community College System’s vice chancellor of workforce and economic development and the executive director for the Alabama Technology Network. To learn more about Skills for Success and register for training, visit the Innovation Center’s website at https://innovation.accs.edu.