By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
House Republicans held a news conference on Tuesday to unveil the ‘Alabama Future Workforce Initiative.’ The dual enrollment bill is part of the Alabama House Republican Caucus’ ‘Commonsense Conservative’ legislative agenda for the 2014 legislative session. Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn was joined by Republican Representatives: Mac Buttram from Cullman, Alan Baker from Brewton), Terri Collins from Decatur, Ken Johnson from Moulton, as well as members of the business and education communities for the much anticipated announcement.
Speaker Hubbard said, “It’s no secret that Alabama is on its way to being the most business friendly state in the nation. Our hard work over the past three years has yielded tremendous results when it comes to recruiting new industries and helping existing industries to expand. If our job creation success is going to continue, we must ensure that our students graduate with the skills to fill the high-paying, 21st century jobs that we are working to recruit.”
Rep. Buttram, the bill’s sponsor, said that there is demand for a highly skilled workforce and that career-technical dual enrollment can have a positive impact on a student’s education and their ability to get a good paying job.
Rep. Buttram said, “It is a fact that there are high-paying, highly skilled jobs available in our state that businesses are unable to find qualified workers to fill. The Alabama Future Workforce Initiative is an investment in our workforce, an investment in our economic development efforts, and an investment in the young men and women of today who will comprise our future workforce of tomorrow.”
Speaker Hubbard said on Facebook, “Honored today to stand with my colleagues in the House to unveil the “Alabama Future Workforce Initiative.” Our goal is to be the best state in the country for business. A key component in doing so is by creating the strongest, best trained workforce. This legislation will help to do just that.
The House Republicans believe that Alabama’s career-tech dual enrollment program is the perfect tool to train a 21st century workforce. Dual enrollment allows high school students to take academic coursework, including technical skills training, towards a college degree while still in high school.
The House GOP said that studies have shown that students who participate in dual enrollment are more likely to graduate from high school and are less likely to need remedial classes. After just two years many dual enrollment students are ready to enter Alabama’s workforce in high-paying, high-demand jobs, at the same time they graduate high school.
The Alabama Future Workforce Initiative will provide opportunities for students across the state to gain the knowledge and skills they need to secure a job, while also providing financial incentives to ensure these programs are and focused on training the workers needed to continue to grow the economy.
The Alabama Future Workforce Initiative creates a $10 million scholarship program for high school students to participate in career-technical dual enrollment programs throughout Alabama. With the cost of tax credits reaching no more than $5 million annually, this initiative is a 2 to 1 return on investment for the state.
The individuals and businesses that donate to the scholarship program will receive a state income tax credit of up to 50% of their total contribution. The tax credit cannot exceed 50% of the contributor’s total Alabama income tax liability and cannot be more than $500,000 per tax year.
The House GOP Caucus said that because businesses know best what training their future workers need, up to 80% of any contribution can be directed by a donor to a specific career-technical dual enrollment program or course at any 2-year institution. The remaining 20% can be allocated at the discretion of the Department of Postsecondary Education, as long as the funds are directly related to career-technical dual enrollment program costs to students– ensuring that all dual-enrollment students benefit from the Initiative.
In 2013, only 2,100 students participated in Alabama’s career-tech dual enrollment scholarship program – only 6.7 percent of the 31,500 students eligible to participate. Due in large part to lack of funding, many students, parents and caregivers are still partially responsible for tuition and other costs related to taking dual enrollment classes.
With an additional $10 million in scholarship funds, 9,542 new students could participate in the program. This would increase total participation in Alabama’s career-tech dual enrollment program by over 23%. The Alabama Future Workforce Initiative helps bridge the gap, giving students who previously could not afford to participate in dual enrollment a chance to enroll.