By Mary Scott Hunter
Representative, Alabama Board of Education
Recent news about the proposed 777x suggests the North Alabama workforce is somehow unprepared to build airplanes. However, I can assuredly say that the focus of Education from PreK through the Community College level and beyond has been on preparing a skilled and technically competent workforce, and we are more than ready to meet any technical industry need.
Education stakeholders in North Alabama are the model of collaboration with our business and industry leaders. Example of this partnering are too numerous to name but include such career preparedness programs and initiatives as: BEST Robotics, Project Lead the Way, Dual Enrollment, AP coursework, Earn and Learn, Career Coaching, Work Keys, and the list goes on and on.
North Alabama has championed the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards which include the Common Core State Standards. Alabama is poised to maintain these high-bar standards, and companies like Boeing are understandably insistent on maintaining standards that raise the academic acumen of graduates.
Beginning in 2011, a team of professionals I was privileged to lead began giving briefings across North Alabama to Chambers of Commerce, Mayors, Economic Developers, etc. titled “Workforce Composition and Industry Trends.” The team of presenters of this information included a Sociologist, a Statistician, AIDT leaders and me. AIDT has, of course, been extremely successful assisting state leadership to establish and build a healthy state economy by recruiting and training a skilled workforce, attracting new industries to the state, and expanding existing industries. North Alabama was already taking a data intensive approach to workforce development, and the work of this team reinforced that approach across my State Board of Education District.
The team found that North Alabama has a workforce that is technically competent and available. Further, our background in other high tech areas such as automobile manufacturing, small electronics manufacturing, prototyping, engineering testing, and the like, gives our workforce the ready ability to make a vocational adjustment which easily fits with Boeing’s need for workers who are skilled enough to build the 777x.
I am privileged to govern twelve school systems, four community colleges, and Athens State University in my role as the District 8 Representative to the Alabama Board of Education. I know I speak for all the education leaders of District 8 when I assure that we will deliver on any workforce need that Boeing or other industry leaders have, and we have long been preparing for a time such as this.