By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, February 12, 2014, the Alabama House of Representatives approved the Alabama Future Workforce Initiative with bipartisan support. The Alabama Future Workforce Initiative is sponsored by State Rep. Mac Buttram (R) from Cullman. The legislation is designed to expand Alabama’s career-tech dual enrollment program by providing opportunities for students across the state to gain the knowledge and skills they need to fill the jobs of the future.
The bill was part of the House Republican Caucus’ Commonsense Conservative legislative agenda.
Representative Buttram said, “In order to continue our state’s economic success, we must ensure our students graduate with the skills to fill the high-paying, 21st century jobs that we have worked so hard to recruit. The Alabama Future
Workforce Initiative is a win-win for our state. Students who participate in dual enrollment are more likely to graduate from high school, and in just two years, many dual enrollment students are also ready to enter Alabama’s workforce in high-paying, high demand jobs immediately upon graduation from high school.”
The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike 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 emphasized that the bill could have an immediate impact on the State’s workforce and noted that there are hundreds of high-paying, highly-skilled job openings awaiting skilled applicants across the state.
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.”
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.
Donating businesses or individuals are allowed to direct up to 80% of any contribution to a specific career-technical dual enrollment program or course at any two-year institution. The remaining 20% will be allocated at the discretion of the Department of Post-secondary Education.
In 2013, only 2,100 students participated in Alabama’s career-tech dual enrollment scholarship program just 6.7 percent of the 31,500 students eligible. This was largely due to a lack of funding. Even with this program many students, parents and caregivers will still be partially responsible for tuition and other costs related to taking dual enrollment classes.
Sponsors hope that with an additional $10 million in scholarship funds, 9,542 new students could participate in the program.
The House passed the measure 100 to 0.
The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.