By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday the 21st Century Workforce Act passed the Alabama House of Representatives. The bill’s passage in the House was supported by both Alabama political parties, business interests, as well as the education community. The bill provides $50 million to update and modernize the equipment and training at career tech centers and vocational education programs throughout the state of Alabama.
The 21st Century Workforce Act is part of the “We Dare Defend Our Rights Agenda” agreed on by the Alabama House Republican well before the 2013 legislative session began. According to the GOP Caucus, the 21st Century Workforce Act will strengthen the state’s investment in career technical education by making sure high school students across the state have access to updated technology and equipment to prepare tomorrow’s workforce for the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century.
The bill is sponsored by Representative Mac Buttram (R) from Cullman. Rep. Buttram said, “The intent is for industry and secondary education to work hand in hand.” Buttram said that many career tech centers are using out of date equipment. As a result, industry has to retrain many graduates on the new modern equipment actually used by the industry today. Buttram said, “A number of our career tech schools have equipment that is very out dated.” Burttram said that by modernizing the career tech centers and coordinating the training with local employers high school graduates in the career tech program can go right into the workforce without having to be retrained on new machines.
The first $20 million from the sale of the bonds will be deposited into the 21st Century Workforce Fund. That money would be allocated by the five member 21st Century Workforce Grant Committee to school boards that apply for the grants to pay for tech center equipment purchases and upgrades. $20 million would be distributed pro rata to School Boards throughout Alabama based on the number of children enrolled in career tech programs. $10 million would be distributed to career technical education units operating in the 2012-2013 school yard.
Rep. Buttram modified his bill in response to criticism from Representatives John Knight (D) from Montgomery, Mary Moore (D) from Birmingham, Pebblin Warren (D) from Tuskegee, Merika Coleman-Evans (D) from Birmingham, and John Rogers (D) from Birmingham that the Grant Committee Board must include the Chancellor of the Two Year College System and shall have diversity. Rogers said, “I don’t want to leave it (diversity) up to anybody or we will get screwed.” Buttram agreed to the minor changes which increased the Grant Committee to six members.
The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard said, “Since Republicans were elected to the majority we have made creating jobs and growing the economy our number one priority. The legislation passed today in the House will continue these successful efforts to build the strongest economy possible in Alabama. By allowing business owners to focus on growing their business instead of dealing with mounds of needless bureaucratic paperwork, the Red Tape Reduction Act will create more jobs for Alabamians. Our economy relies on a skilled workforce and the 21st Century Workforce Act ensures that our students are prepared with the tools they need to build successful careers and help drive the economy. House Republicans will continue to do everything we can to make Alabama an attractive place for business.”
The 21st Century Workforce Act passed by a vote of 93 to 0. Now the bill moves on to the Alabama Senate for their consideration.