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Group Says Alabama Needs to Grow its Skilled Workforce

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Montgomery, Alabama — Expanding our skilled workforce is key to creating new jobs in Alabama according to JobKeeper Alliance, a job-focused nonprofit organization. The group also says that overcoming commonly held misconceptions about manufacturing and skilled trade jobs is an obstacle that must be overcome.

The skilled workforce is aging in Alabama and we do not have enough young people entering vocations in the skilled trades.  As more baby boomers leave the work force, this shortage will only worsen.  In their written statement, the JobKeeper Alliance said, “If we can reverse this trend and expand our skilled workforce, Alabama will have a competitive advantage that will help attract new industry to our state.”

To accomplish this goal the JobKeeper Alliance is working to encourage more middle and high school students to consider a skilled trade career path. Their plan is to expose students to the many opportunities that are available for skilled workers today in high tech industrial and manufacturing operations.

Their plan also includes educating parents, teachers, and counselors on the many benefits of pursuing a skilled trade career.  These careers have both higher than average wages and opportunities for advancement.

The President of Manufacture Alabama and a member of the JobKeeper Board, George Clark said, “One of the biggest challenges we face is overcoming the myths and misconceptions about manufacturing and skilled trade jobs.”

JobKeeper has formed a strategic partnership with the Alabama Department of Education’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Section to better connect the AL Department of Education with manufacturers and organizations that represent skilled workers. JobKeeper says that they are also planning to actively support the CTE programs like SkillsUSA.  JobKeeper and Manufacture Alabama are also hosting a workshop for 4,000 high school students at the 2012 Joint Leadership Development Conference.

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The education system has focused on preparing students for college, but in this almost stagnant economy that may not be the best strategy for career success. According to a study by Northeastern University, Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years.  Almost half of that number were unemployed.  Recent college grads actually have a higher unemployment rate than their age group as a whole.

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The Chairman of the Board of Jobkeeper Stewart Burkhalter said, “Our goal is to work hand-in-hand with educators and organizations like Go Build Alabama that share our goal of expanding our state’s skilled workforce. I am encouraged by the cooperative spirit that exists between the various groups working on this issue.”

According to their website, “JobKeeper’s Mission is to create, protect, and support high-paying middle class jobs in Alabama.  JobKeeper is an alliance formed between the business community and labor community. This partnership is cemented by the two group’s mutual interest in protecting jobs and working to create new jobs.”  JobKeeper Alliance is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization.

For more information about the JobKeeper Alliance visit their website:

http://www.jobkeeperalliance.org/

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