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AlabamaWorks! Is on track for employers, employees

Ed Castile



By Ed Castile

What began several years ago as a vision for developing a skilled workforce and ensuring continued industry success is now a reality. In November 2016, AlabamaWorks officially launched, bringing together all the components of Alabama’s workforce development system under one brand.

AlabamaWorks unites Alabama businesses and industries with our education, workforce training and job placement systems. The goal was to bridge the gap between unfilled jobs and a qualified workforce, and we are doing that.

Along with business and industry leaders, partners in AlabamaWorks include the Alabama Department of Commerce and AIDT; the Alabama State Department of Education and its Career/Technical Education Program; the Alabama Community College System; the Alabama Technology Network; the Alabama Department of Labor and its Alabama Career Center System; and the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.


AlabamaWorks also included reconfiguring the state’s original 10 regional workforce councils into seven, each led by a director. The councils determine the needs of their regions through industry clusters that range from healthcare to automotive, transportation to aerospace, and construction to machining. It simply depends on the area’s needs.

Our regional directors have been busy — coordinating job fairs, hosting cluster meetings, working with the media, and planning events that expose students and job seekers to various career opportunities.

Each regional director is paired with a Department of Commerce employee, who is a regional workforce council liaison. Together, they coordinate resources to meet workforce needs of that region.

To ensure our goals are met, our regional directors have specific metrics they must achieve, such as conducting needs assessments, creating annual strategic plans, formulating grants committees, etc. I am pleased to say that all directors are on track to meet their targets.

One milestone for each regional director is to introduce eighth-graders to opportunities in the technical fields. These events go by different names — “Worlds Of Opportunity,” “Worlds of Work,” “Career Discovery” – but they all provide hands-on experiences for students to learn about careers that don’t require a four-year degree. Company representatives also share information about wages, positions available and what type of training or education is required.

In addition to exposing students to technical careers, we also have an apprenticeship program. Launched in January by the Department of Commerce, Apprenticeship Alabama has made significant strides for both employers and employees.

Presently, we have 31 companies and hundreds of apprentices in our system. While the apprentice earns a wage and receives on-the-job training, the registered company gains a qualified employee AND receives a tax credit. Apprentices can expect to earn a higher wage upon successful completion of the program.

One company that is experiencing success with Apprenticeship Alabama is Newman Technology of Alabama, Inc. Newman Technology needed training for some of its existing employees to advance their skills and careers, but wasn’t certain how to proceed. They contacted a representative at Northeast Alabama Community College to discuss company needs and what the college could offer. As a result, Newman now has five apprentices who are getting formal instruction via college courses while receiving on-the-job training with other skilled Newman employees.

To stretch dollars and manpower even further, the Alabama workforce system is combining its resources with those from the federal government through the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act.

Previously, WIOA had three local boards to cover the entire state. Now, WIOA boards are aligning with the seven regions. The first local board meeting was convened by West AlabamaWorks a few weeks ago. There are now five new local boards and two expanded local boards.

AlabamaWorks has also been an asset in industry recruitment. When industry representatives are seeking sites for their companies, they look at the area in its entirety — including its potential workforce. The Alabama Department of Commerce uses AlabamaWorks and its partners as a recruiting tool.

Recently, state leaders announced that several companies are coming to Alabama and another is returning. Dynetics (Huntsville) broke ground on a new facility. Meanwhile, Wolverine Tube (Decatur) announced it will reopen, creating 250 jobs. These and other companies see the value in what we have to offer.

Although we have a lot of work still to do, I feel we have achieved a great deal during the past several months. Through AlabamaWorks, people are working together like never before to ensure Alabama jobs are filled with trained applicants.

For more information on finding employees, posting a job, training or a finding a job, please visit the website.

Ed Castile is deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce/Workforce Development Division and executive director of AIDT.


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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Checking in on the Alabama Accountability Act

Larry Lee



By and large, the Legislature passes laws and seldom looks back to see what impact they are having.  Which seems a HUGE mistake to me.  The Alabama Accountability Act passed in 2013 being a prime example.

So from time to time I visit the Alabama Department of Revenue web site where they post info about AAA.  It’s always an interesting read.

For instance, you find a list current through Feb. 22, 2018 that shows there are now 204 private schools which have signed up to participate in this program that gives vouchers to students to attend private schools.  (This does not mean 204 schools have gotten scholarships, just that many have said they would take them.)

The state indicates if these schools are accredited or not.  Of the 204, 69 of them are NOT accredited.  That’s 33.8 percent.  AAA started in 2013 and 12 of the non-accredited schools have been that way since 2013.  One has to ask why we allow this to happen?  Why are we diverting money from the Education Trust Fund that may go to a school that has had five years to become accredited, but hasn’t?   Is this really looking out for the best interest of the young folks of this state?


For instance, the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, one of the state’s scholarship granting organizations (SGO), reported that at the end of 2017, they had students at 114 private schools.  By my count, 166 of these scholarships are at 27 non-accredited schools.

The Department of Revenue keeps track of how much money is given to SGOs each year.  From 2013 through 2017, the total amount is $116,617,919.

Remember that each one of these dollars gets a one for one tax credit from the state.  Which means we have now diverted $116 million from the Education Trust Fund for private school scholarships.

Today there are 396,711 elementary students (K-6) in Alabama.  So over the past five years we have diverted $294 from ETF for each one of these students.  That is $7,000 per elementary classroom.

I visit a lot of elementary schools.  I see a lot of classrooms.  I don’t know a single elementary teacher who would not have jumped at the chance to have an extra $7,000 for her classroom since 2013.

In this legislative election year, we need to let every candidate, incumbents and challengers alike, know what is going on.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Protecting our children

Bradley Byrne



For much of the year, the safety of our students rests in the hands of the faculty, staff, and resource officers at our schools.  Without a shadow of a doubt, the people who know best how to protect our schools are the teachers, parents, administrators, police officers, and students in their own communities.

In February, the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida resonated throughout our communities, highlighting a disturbing trend of individuals who clearly show signs of grave mental instability falling through the cracks.

Sadly, this incident likely could have been avoided had there been better oversight at every level of law enforcement.  From the top down, we failed these students by not heeding the warning signs and working together as a team to ensure our students’ safety.

In response to this incident, the House recently passed the Student, Teacher’s Officer’s Prevention (STOP) School Violence Act, which provides grant funding for evidence-based training for our local law enforcement, school faculty and staff, and students to help identify and prevent school violence before these tragic events occur.


First, the STOP School Violence Act provides funding for training to prevent student violence, including training for local law enforcement officers, school personnel, and students in the event of an emergency.  This training would be designed to give students and school personnel the ability to recognize and respond quickly to warning signs of violent behavior and would include active shooter training.

Second, the bill provides funding for technology and equipment to improve school security.  This includes the development and operation of anonymous reporting systems, as well as the installation of metal detectors, locks, and other preventative technologies to keep schools secure.

The legislation also authorizes funding for school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams for school personnel to respond to threats before they become real-time incidents.  Recognizing the warning signs of violent, threatening behavior and having the proper resources to address it on the front end can prevent these tragedies from ever occurring.

Finally, the STOP School Violence Act provides funding to support law enforcement coordination efforts, particularly the officers who already staff schools.  From the federal level all the way down to our local law enforcement, we need to ensure there is accountability and communication when handling violent behavior.

Many of our local schools are already reevaluating their security measures and taking additional steps to promote a safe learning environment for our students.  Our students’ safety and security should always remain a top priority, and I believe it is imperative that our local schools have the most appropriate resources in place in the event of an emergency.

As we look for ways to prevent these terrible tragedies, I am open to additional solutions to address the underlying issues that cause these events to occur.  That said, I remain steadfastly committed to upholding the individual right of all law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.  Millions of Americans should not have their Second Amendment rights infringed upon due to the bad actions of a few individuals.

Rather, I believe we should focus on addressing mental health issues and combatting the role of violence in our modern culture, such as the prevalence of violent video games that normalize this behavior for our young students, and promoting commonsense solutions that will address the larger issues of mental health so that those with mental illness do not fall through the cracks.

There is still work to be done to ensure each child’s safety and well-being while attending classes. However, I am proud that we have taken this action in the House to promote a safe, secure learning environment for our children.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | When liberals help the poor they do more harm than good

Scott Beason



Stock Photo

On my Scott Beason Radio program this past Monday, a regular contributor mentioned that a bill to eliminate payday lending had passed the Alabama Senate, and I was surprised. Having dealt with the issue back when I was in office, I think payday lending gets a bum rap out in the mainstream media. These short term loans are an important part of the financial lending community and are often the only access to credit that some people have. I also wondered what special interest group is driving an agenda for which the general public nor the so called “poor” is clamoring. The answer is the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Republican supermajorities do not – or used to not – kowtow to the SPLC. If there is a more liberal group in the United States, this conservative is not aware of it. Maybe the legislators have bought into the SPLC propaganda that they are protecting the “poor”. … By eliminating the only means for credit the “poor” have? By eliminating the jobs of the 5,000 people in the state who work in the industry? That doesn’t make sense.

“Helping the poor” is a noble cause, in the generic sense of the words, but how does eliminating payday loans actually help the “poor”? How does making it more difficult for someone with limited means and bad credit to get the money they need to make it to the next paycheck help the “poor”? This question is the one that made it difficult for me to legislatively pursue the total destruction of the payday lending industry.

If a “poor” person needs $100 dollars on Wednesday to make it to Friday, where can he get it? The answer is nowhere, if there is no such thing as short term lending. These loans are simply too risky and too small for banks or credit unions to handle. If payday loans were workable at a lower interest rate, then someone would be doing it right now. You don’t have to change the law to do that. Just let capitalism work. I suggest that those who believe they can run a better business model for short term lending get out in the market and do so. Show us how to “help the poor” the “right” way.

What happened to free market Republicans in the Alabama legislature? There used to be enough to make up an entire caucus. Does the term, free market, mean nothing when the Southern Poverty Law Center says jump? In Washington DC Barack Obama tried to crush the payday loan industry, and now Republicans gleefully further Obama’s agenda in Alabama. Regulating a whole sector of the financial services industry out of existence is not the free market.


Another person on the radio show described working at his job and loaning his buddies $20 on Wednesday to help them make it to Friday. On payday they gave him back $25. He called it 20 for 25, and his friends appreciated being able to buy gas and food for those couple of days. 20 for 25 seems reasonable and harmless, but the cost to the borrower is more than is charged in Alabama’s payday lending industry. … I know. … It’s weird. … 20 for 25 did not seem “predatory” at all.

The “working poor” will continue to need small cash loans from time to time. That will not change, but we cannot help people by not allowing them to help themselves. All of our freedoms come with the risk of excess and of getting into trouble. Payday lending is simply another market based, regulated, and lawful financial service that replaced the mob supported loan sharks of days gone by. My friend, Senator Tom Whatley, who was apparently one of the few willing to talk about the free market on the Senate floor made a great point: the people who cannot get short term loans in Alabama will now get them online, or from people who want more than an interest rate. They want an arm or a leg. … Well said Mr. Whatley.

To help the “poor”, the legislature should stop helping. Prior legislation has straightened up the industry, and lawmakers should leave well enough alone. Let the payday lending legislation die a quiet death. It is not needed, and it hurts regular folks who are thankful that they have the option of a short term loan when they need one to make ends meet.

Scott Beason a former State Senator is the host of The Scott Beason Show on WYDE Superstation 101 in Birmingham.


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AlabamaWorks! Is on track for employers, employees

by Ed Castile Read Time: 4 min