By Cleve Poole
Though not having been in office long, Governor Ivey, has embraced the increasing need for post high school education and skills for Alabama workers over the coming years. The Governor has announced a goal of having 65% of Alabama workforce having degrees, credentials or certificates by the year 2025. At present, only about 37% of Alabama workers have some sort of post high school certification showing advanced training.
Why is this so important? According to Atlantic Magazine’s CityLab, in an online article headlined The New ‘Good Jobs’, “Since the 1970s, the share of jobs for people with a high-school education or less has declined from 72 percent to 38 percent, and wages for workers in this group have declined by 15 percent. There is no way back to the legions of good manufacturing jobs that only required high school.”
Since the Great Recession, the number of manufacturing jobs has declined. As the manufacturers ramp back up, more and more of the old jobs have been replaced by robotics, and the remaining jobs require more skill. “Fewer jobs” is the bad news. The “good news” is that the remaining jobs pay more. According to the same article, “40 percent (of Middle Skill jobs) pay more than $55,000 annually and 14 percent pay more than $80,000 annually. By comparison, the average bachelor’s degree-holder earns $61,000 annually.”
There is more good news: There are a lot of jobs out there! “Through 2024, the economy will create more than 16 million middle-skill job openings, including 3 million from newly-created jobs and 13 million from Baby Boomer retirements.”(CityLab)
In a recent article on AL.com, the Alabama Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, Rosemary Elebash said, “To put it simply: We have plenty of people who need jobs. We have plenty of businesses that have jobs to fill. But the available people and the available jobs don't always line up. Too many prospective employees lack the necessary skills for jobs that are in demand.”
There are many different types of post high school training that are available to Alabama workers. The first that come to mind are traditional 2 and 4-year academic degrees. More and more, though, technical training is a requirement for what are considered “middle skill” jobs. Alabama public schools and community colleges offer courses and certifications in all sorts of fields, from Industrial Maintenance to Welding. (For more information, see www.accs.cc) Other providers offer additional skills training, such as AIDT (www.aidt.edu) and the Coop Extension Service (www.aces.edu)
The more skills a worker has, the more job readiness, success and advancement, he or she can expect. The more skilled a company’s workforce, the more successful the company will be. As Alabama gears up for a skilled labor force, everybody prospers.
Cleve Poole serves as the vice president of economic development and legal affairs at Pioneer Electric Cooperative.