By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The competition between states to land the Boeing 777x plant has become fierce. Part of competition is promoting the benefits of your state and sometimes competition sinks to tearing down the other states in the competition. Some of Alabama’s competitors have reportedly attacked North Alabama workers, saying that the state’s education system does not produce enough workers with the ability to learn the high skills needed to assemble jetlines for Boeing. State of Alabama School Board Mary Scott Hunter (R) defended North Alabama workers and schools in her latest column.
Mary Scott Hunter said, “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.”
Hunter said that, “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.”
Hunter continued, “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.”
Hunter has been heavily criticized by Republican leaders and conservative grassroots organizations for her stubborn support for the controversial common core standards. Many legislators have publicly announced their opposition to the state’s schools adoption of the controversial nationwide school standards being promoted by the Obama administration. Supporters of the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards argue that they are necessary for the state to remain competitive with other states for projects like Boeing.
Hunter said 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.”
Hunter concluded, “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.”
Workforce development is an issue that is going to be heavily debated by Boeing officials as they review the proposals from the various states. Boeing will provide an estimated 8,500 highly paid jobs at the 777x plant, but most of those jobs require a high technical aptitude.