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Legislative leaders discuss ambitious workforce and economic development package

Yellowhammer News held its annual panel discussion Wednesday with the President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate and the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.

The event, now in its second year of four years, marked the second time Pro Tem Greg Reed and Chair Nathaniel Ledbetter appeared side by side as leaders of their respective chambers.

The major topics to be discussed with legislative leaders on Wednesday will increasingly capture the attention of all members.A package of workforce and economic development bills aimed at improving Alabama's low labor force participation rates and building a stronger, more resilient Alabama economy.

Pro Tem Reid and Chairman Ledbetter each praised Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth for addressing this issue through his work on the Lieutenant Governor's Committee on Monday.cent century workforce.

“First of all, the lieutenant governor's committee did a great job on this,” Ledbetter said. “A lot of these were commissioned by him and they've done a great job and I'm excited about it. I have a list of invoices on my desk and I'm trying to move them. I'm aiming for the day.”

RELATED: Reed details legal approach to building tomorrow's Alabama workforce in BCA lecture

The Lieutenant Governor's Commission on the 21st Century Workforce was established in 2019 and is tasked with charting a path for the state to improve and modernize its workforce.

When the commission's report was released in January, Mr Ainsworth said:

“Alabama is the economic recruiting leader in the Southeast, but to remain competitive we need historic and transformative changes to our workforce development system,” Ainsworth said. “Our committee has developed a plan to coordinate job training efforts so that Alabama can seize new opportunities and connect all Alabamians to 21st century jobs. These reforms This will help make Alabama's workforce development the envy of the nation.”

The commission's report states that to improve the state's labor force participation rate, Alabama will consolidate the Department of Commerce's Office of Workforce Development, AIDT, and the Department of Labor into a new Alabama Workforce Agency led by a cabinet-level secretary. AWA) should be established. Workforce Development appointed by the Governor.

AWA will be governed by a nine-member Board of Directors, which will advise the Governor and the Legislature on workforce priorities and help hold state agencies accountable.

Related: Workforce competitiveness strategy proposed in Alabama's 'transformative' new plan

Another recommendation of the committee is the creation of a child care tax credit, which Ledbetter said is very close to becoming a reality.

“We're working on a bill that addresses the child care tax credit, and we think we're very close to making it happen,” Ledbetter said.

Reed said another key element of the committee's report is establishing a diploma in the workforce pathway to help students receive skills training during their high school years.

“One of the things the lieutenant governor had on his list was the idea of ​​a workforce diploma,” Reed said. “This is about giving kids who aren't planning on going to college the opportunity to get the on-the-job training they need so that when they graduate at age 18, they're well-trained and job-ready.”

RELATED: Expanding access to quality child care gains support among Alabama lawmakers and working families

Mr. Reed also mentioned the need for a strong workforce when recruiting industries that invest in the state.

My opinion is that Alabama needs to grow along the interstates, but also in rural Alabama. Reid said.

RUral Alabama must be involved. There are a lot of employees in rural Alabama. If we are trying to increase labor force participation, we know there are rural people available for employment.

“People who are looking to invest in Alabama say, 'How can I come and spend $100 million to put my facility on a developed SEEDS site and get guaranteed labor? We have to have the ability to say that people from that community can be trained to work in your facility. ”

The leaders each confirmed that the package builds on and was made possible by the success of the Game Plan passed in 2023.

Grayson Everett is the state and politics editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270.

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