By Baron Coleman
The media accounts of Mike Hubbard’s financial woes have descended on Alabama like thick morning dew.
As the media sifted through the treasure trove of emails and other documents, the public got its first glimpses behind the Lee County Grand Jury’s curtain. Everyone could finally begin to read what Mike Hubbard knew and when did he know it.
Unfortunately, the media collectively appears to have concluded Mike Hubbard was and may still be broke. This is what Mike Hubbard wanted the recipients to believe when he drafted these fateful emails in 2011 and 2012. He just never intended the Attorney General’s office, a grand jury, the media, and the public to give the emails a thorough vetting.
At the time the recently released emails were written, Mike Hubbard wasn’t broke. In August 2012, Hubbard filed a personal finance statement with Regions Bank painting an incredibly different financial picture than the one he attempted to pawn off on Alabama’s most powerful political figures.
Most Alabamians can’t fathom an $8 million net worth. But there it is in black and white on page 3 of Exhibit 42A of the prosecution’s response to Hubbard’s impossibly foolish Motion for More Definite Statement. Hubbard’s net worth was $7.8 million, his 2011 taxable income was $434,000, and he had liquid assets (i.e., cash or its equivalent) of $865,000.
Whether Hubbard subsequently burned through the nearly $8 million net worth he disclosed to Regions Bank we may never know. But we know this: In 2011 and 2012, while Hubbard was telling anyone and everyone who would listen he was flat broke, he wasn’t broke. Not even close.
A detailed reading of the 85 exhibits filed by the prosecution answers why Hubbard wanted to appear broke to Alabama’s rich and powerful.
The earliest email in the cache is an email exchange between Bob Riley and Mike Hubbard from January 2011. Riley and Hubbard discussed Hubbard’s employer, IMG, forcing Hubbard to choose between politics and continuing to work for IMG. IMG’s stated reason, according to Hubbard: Politics was taking too much of Hubbard’s time from work.
Hubbard was fewer than 90 days into his reign as Speaker and his employer was asking him to quit.
On February 10, 2011, and again the following day, Hubbard sent his first emails stating openly that he wished he could work for or perhaps even run Bob Riley & Associates, the lobbying firm opened by Governor Riley after leaving office in January 2011.
This is the first insight into Hubbard’s mindset at the time, and it’s not clear which way Hubbard was planning to attack.
He had two options.
One option was to solicit business from the rich and powerful, Riley included, in the hope that businesses would open their bank accounts to the new Speaker of the House. One can hardly blame Hubbard for thinking this might work, especially considering the amount of money Hubbard is credited with raising during the 2010 campaign, a staggering number totaling in the several millions of dollars. Hubbard interpreted this to mean the rich and powerful have disposable income and trust Hubbard with that disposable income to further their political and financial interests.
The second option was for Hubbard to portray himself as something he was not, on the verge of financial ruin, in an attempt to manipulate the rich and powerful into thinking they should support Hubbard, lest he be forced to leave politics and threaten the “investments” they made during the 2010 campaign.
The second option can even be considered a fallback option to the first. If Hubbard solicited businesses and they declined his overt advances for their financial affection, he could resort to option two.
The emails suggest that is exactly what he did.
The polite exchanges between Hubbard and Riley in January and February of 2011, 90-120 days into Hubbard’s tenure as Speaker, show a gently forward Hubbard, a man asking to be included in what he saw as the get-rich-quick scheme that had become Governor Riley’s new career. But they also show a polite, almost meek Hubbard, beating around the bush and offering childish pleasantries and subtle hints disguised as playful requests.
Riley, whether purposefully or not, did not act on the hints.
The next known email exchange between Hubbard and Riley is from February 20, 2011, just nine days later. The emails indicate Riley was working on a business or lobbying deal in South Carolina. Hubbard wrote a brief email from his BlackBerry asking Riley if it was successful. Riley’s reply was tantalizingly brief: “Oh yeah.”
Hubbard’s reply to Riley’s “Oh yeah” indicates a shift in tactics, if not strategy. No longer was he simply wishing aloud that he could work for Riley; rather, Hubbard came right out and asked for it. “Can I come work for BR&A (Bob Riley and Associates)? I need a job and this way I would work [for] someone I respect.”
The record goes silent for the next six months. When it picks back up in August 2011, Hubbard was no longer basking in the glow of the immediate aftermath of the 2010 campaign. The mild sense of fear he might lose his job with IMG had given way to an earth shaking panic, perhaps even, in Hubbard’s words, depression or a mid-life crisis.
On August 8, 2011, in the midst of a back-and-forth email exchange about politics at the Alabama Republican Party and updates about Riley’s health, Hubbard subtly mentioned that he had “to get busy trying to figure out how to support [his] family after March!” Riley’s reply addressed only Riley’s health and the Party. Riley avoided Hubbard’s comments about seeking a firm financial footing.
Hubbard prodded again in a reply, outlining his busy travel itinerary but noting that it wasn’t helping him make money for his family.
Riley again missed the mark in his reply. Rather than addressing what Hubbard wanted (money), he addressed Hubbard’s political future, essentially asking whether he wanted to be Speaker Hubbard or Governor Hubbard, though he never mentioned the “G” word. If Hubbard wanted only to remain Speaker, Riley suggested the hectic travel schedule might be too much. However, if his goal was more than just Speaker, i.e., Governor, Riley told Hubbard he was doing all the right things.
But Hubbard wasn’t looking for political or travel advice. He wanted to talk about money. Hubbard’s next reply makes that painfully clear.
Hubbard launched into a confusing, yet revealing, tirade about his place in life. He lamented the fact that his company controlling Auburn sports media rights had been sold twice and he was no longer a part of it. He complained that his then-current company, presumably Auburn Network though the same could be said for Craftmaster Printers at the time, was merely spinning its wheels in a state of non-profitability.
Then things turned personal. He told Riley he feared he was sacrificing his family’s financial future for politics. He said he felt like he was collapsing and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He mentioned the possibility he was having a mid-life crisis and admitted he was battling depression.
This is the first email revealing Hubbard had moved from merely hinting or asking for financial opportunities to putting on the full-court press for cash.
Riley’s reply to Hubbard’s emotional screed is equally strange in that Riley stated from that point forward he and Hubbard would be suspect in everything they did. Riley didn’t explain why the former-governor-turned-lobbyist and the Speaker of the House would be suspect. He just stated it as a fact, a fact Hubbard ratified by silence when his reply did nothing more than thank Riley for his words.
That was the turning point. From that point on, Hubbard would not go back to hints or wishes that he could be a part of a moneymaking operation. All subsequent emails, whether to Riley, Riley’s daughter Minda Campbell, or businessman Will Brooke, sound this same desperate tone.
Hubbard’s email exchanges with Brooke from September 2011 through September 2012 centered on Hubbard approaching Brooke for help finding business opportunities to avoid financial ruin that could lead to Hubbard’s resignation. Brooke ultimately would come up with a plan to have outside investors save Craftmaster Printers, a cause for concern for Hubbard at the time. As investors took the bait, Hubbard’s tone improved and Hubbard outlined the financial gains Craftmaster Printers achieved as Brooke’s plan was executed.
Hubbard emailed Brooke multiple times asking for help identifying business opportunities as Hubbard’s contract with IMG was nearing its conclusion. Whether honestly or not, Hubbard expressed confusion and hurt over businessmen investing heavily in his vision for the 2010 campaign but not wanting to hire him after winning. Instead, he wondered in writing whether he was too much of a lighting rod or that “no good deed goes unpunished.”
On March 20, 2012, Brooke finally stated as politely as possible, without blatantly calling Hubbard a crook, what the businessmen likely had been thinking but apparently never stated openly. “No, Mike, that’s not it,” Brooke said about Hubbard’s martyr complex. “I think that folks are afraid to mess up, either on their or your side of the equation.”
It was Brooke’s way of politely telling Hubbard that people knew he was asking them to break the law.
All of this is notable because of one particular point of context Hubbard fails to include in his emails. At no point during the time period of these email exchanges, from early 2011 to late 2012, could Hubbard truthfully be described as anything nearing financially broke. He told Governor Riley he was broke. He told Minda Campbell he was broke. He told Will Brooke he was broke. But he wasn’t broke. Not even close.
Many have been tempted to point to pure greed as the probable cause for Hubbard’s never-ending search for business opportunities, but there’s a better explanation. The explanation is buried in an email exchange with Minda Campbell from October 31, 2011.
In the exchange, Campbell mentioned to Hubbard that she had thought about Hubbard’s purported financial situation. She wondered if there was a way around the ethics laws that would allow Hubbard to profit from Bob Riley & Associates.
She speculated in the email that Riley de-registering as a lobbyist would allow Hubbard to associate with the firm. If Riley de-registered, the firm would be a consulting firm, rather than a lobbying firm. Legislators don’t have the same legal restrictions with consultants they do with lobbyists.
Hubbard’s reply to Campbell is the key to understanding Hubbard’s mood and behavior in his emails with Riley, Campbell, and Brooke. Hubbard tells Campbell that Hubbard and Riley had a plan from the beginning that would include Hubbard profiting off of Bob Riley & Associates. However, for the plan to work, Riley couldn’t register as a lobbyist. In Hubbard’s words, Riley “messed that up” when he registered. Hubbard hoped in the email that Riley “can and will unring that bell,” meaning that Riley would de-register as a lobbyist so Hubbard could associate with the firm and make money.
Riley was making what many speculate was millions of dollars off of Hubbard’s time as Speaker, and Hubbard was left with his $70,000 a year Speaker’s salary, his wife’s $145,000 a year job at Auburn University, and an ultimatum from Hubbard’s employer IMG that he either leave politics or lose his job.
That is why Hubbard initially dropped hints and later seethed with rage about his finances. That is why Hubbard repeatedly asked if there was a way he could come work for Bob Riley & Associates. That is why Hubbard threatened to quit and walk away from politics if he couldn’t come up with a way to make more money.
He wasn’t broke. That was a lie. Hubbard’s August 2012 financial statement states Hubbard had a net worth of close to $7.8 million and liabilities of only about $600,000. It is irrational to conclude that with a $7.8 million net worth and a bare minimum of $215,000 a year in combined tax-payer funded salary between Hubbard and his wife, he would need to harass the rich and powerful with requests for business opportunities to avoid financial ruin.
Hubbard’s bizarre behavior was not motivated by greed or poverty; it was motivated by anger and envy.
Fresh off the 2010 campaign, a time when the rich and powerful were throwing millions of dollars to Hubbard-controlled PACs, Hubbard believed he was somebody special. He mistakenly believed the campaign contributions and widespread desire for Republican control meant faith in Mike Hubbard. He became angry when the spigots ran dry after the election. He believed he deserved a reward for his efforts in 2010 and if people couldn’t appreciate him for what he did, he would make them think he was in dire straits in order to separate them from their cash.
He also was insanely jealous, particularly of Governor Riley. His email exchanges with Riley are peppered with vivid descriptions of his affection for the former governor. Verbs like love, respect, and admire are frequent in the exchanges, even if they tended to travel only in one direction: from Hubbard to Riley. At one point, Hubbard even described Riley as his true father figure and limned his own father as a poor, pitiful figure compared to Riley’s stature and sagacity. If Hubbard and Riley truly had a plan for the two of them to profit off of Bob Riley & Associates that was more concrete than Hubbard’s fanciful imagination, Hubbard must have burned with envy at the thought of Riley becoming wealthy while Hubbard treaded water in his businesses and pushed Riley’s rocks up hills in the legislature.
A judge and jury will have the final say on whether Hubbard committed crimes. However, portraying Hubbard as a scared citizen legislator teetering on the precipice of a financial catastrophe is criminally inaccurate. At the time of these email exchanges, Hubbard was wealthy beyond the comprehension of most Alabamians. Anger and envy drove Hubbard, not greed or poverty.
With the release of these records, particularly the financial statement outlining the extent of his wealth at the time, media reports of Mike Hubbard motivated by the threat of poverty must evaporate in the breaking dawn of this reality.
Baron Coleman is an attorney, political consultant, and co-host of News and Views from Nine to Noon on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV in Montgomery, Ala.
Opinion | FEMA’s Hurricane Sally response
So, how has FEMA performed in responding to Hurricane Sally? So far, pretty darn well.
Most people in Alabama have heard of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Its name is a little misleading because emergencies by their nature aren’t so much managed as responded to, often after the fact. You can’t manage a tornado or an earthquake, for example, but you can and should respond to it.
Hurricanes are facts of life down here and nearly every part of our state, not just the coast, have been affected in some way by at least one. We can prepare for hurricanes and guard against the worst consequences and that starts with each of us as individuals, family members and citizens doing our part to be prepared to protect and take care of ourselves, family members and neighbors. Alabamians are actually pretty good at doing that.
But, there is also a role for governments at all levels. Local governments actually play the most important public role because they are closest to the people of their areas and have the first responders already employed and trained to take care of the needs of local residents during the period running up to, during, and in the immediate aftermath of the storm. State governments manage the preparations before the storm and provide the support local governments need afterward to do their jobs. The federal government supports the state and local efforts, which typically means providing the lion’s share of the money needed, anywhere from 75 percent to 90 percent of the costs. So there’s not one emergency management agency involved in responding to hurricanes but three, corresponding to each level of government.
The day before Hurricane Sally hit, I was individually briefed by the Director of the National Hurricane Center Ken Graham, FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor and Coast Guard officials. That same day I went to the White House and made sure we had a good line of communication in case we needed help, which looked likely at the time. I have to say, the White House was immediately responsive and has continued to be so.
How has FEMA handled the federal response to Hurricane Sally? When the state of Alabama requested a pre-storm disaster declaration, which triggers federal financial support for preparations and response during the storm, FEMA and the White House gave the okay in just a few hours. On that day before when I spoke with the White House, I asked them to send FEMA Administrator Gaynor to my district as soon as possible once the storm cleared to see the damage and meet with local officials. He came three days after the storm and spent several hours touring the damage with me and meeting with local leaders. When the state of Alabama requested a post-storm declaration, triggering federal financial support for public and individual assistance, FEMA and the White House responded affirmatively in less than 48 hours – record time.
Public assistance is federal financial support for the costs to state and local governments as a result of a storm. This includes water bottles and meals ready to eat for locally requested points of distribution, debris removal and cleanup costs (think of the large tandem trucks picking up debris piled up on the right of way), as well as the costs to repair damage to public buildings and infrastructure like roads and bridges, and in the case of Sally damage to the Port of Mobile.
Individual assistance, as the label states, goes to individuals affected by the storm. Private assistance won’t pay something you have insurance for, but it does pay for a variety of losses, particularly having to do with an individual’s home. So far 60,000 Alabamans have applied for individual assistance and already FEMA has approved $42 million. If you haven’t applied for individual assistance there’s still time for you to do so online at DisasterAssistance.gov, or if you need help in applying call FEMA’s Helpline at 1-800-621-3362. If you have applied for individual assistance and have been denied, appeal the decision because frequently the denial is simply because the applicant didn’t include all the needed information.
Many people were flooded by Sally and over 3,000 of them have made claims to the National Flood Insurance Program. Over $16 million has already been paid out on those claims. The Small Business Administration has approved over a thousand home loans to people with storm losses, totaling over $40 million, and many more loan applications are still pending.
So, how has FEMA performed in responding to Hurricane Sally? So far, pretty darn well. I want to thank FEMA Administrator Gaynor for coming down here so quickly after the storm and for FEMA’s quick and positive responses to all our requests. And I want to thank President Trump for his concern and quick response to Alabama’s requests for disaster declarations. Hurricane Sally was a brutal experience for us in Alabama, but FEMA’s response shows that government can do good things, helping people and communities when they really need it.
Opinion | An inspirational pick
Many progressives, it seems, claim to believe in the power of women, but only for women who think and talk like they do.
A century ago, the Suffragettes finally succeeded in winning the right to vote for women. They would be thrilled to see the nomination of a woman so uniquely qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court as Judge Amy Coney Barrett, were they alive today. It’s easy to imagine them storming the streets of America and urging that Judge Barrett be confirmed, and by a wide margin.
After all, the four female justices nominated before her were confirmed with lopsided votes by the U.S. Senate: 99-0 for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, 68-31 for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, 63-37 for Justice Elena Kagan and 96-3 for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Sadly, it speaks to the times in which we are living that Judge Barrett’s vote by the Senate will most likely come down to a tight vote, with nearly every Democrat opposing her nomination.
As governors who are either the first or second females to be elected in our respective states, we are rightfully proud to see diversity expand among the highest levels of government. Notably, however, our support for Judge Barrett hinges not on her being a female, but rather her superior intellect, unflappable composure and impeccable integrity, all which combine to make her eminently qualified in every way.
Regretfully, we know – as do many others – that the climb for women into the upper echelon of American leadership has always been a bit steeper. After all, when was the last time a man’s haircut, the color of his tie or suit or the number of children in his family were scrutinized as part of the public discourse?
It is bittersweet that Judge Barrett followed her father’s advice that she could do anything her male counterparts could do, only better, and yet, sadly, millions of women appear to oppose her nomination simply because she interprets the law as-written, rather than siding with them on every issue. Is this the new standard for qualification?
Many progressives, it seems, claim to believe in the power of women, but only for women who think and talk like they do.
We applaud President Trump for choosing Judge Amy Coney Barrett for service on our nation’s highest court; she may well be one of the most qualified, extraordinary picks during the past century, and we urge the United States Senate to confirm her nomination in short order.
We especially like the direct answers Judge Barrett provided to two of the Senate Judiciary Committee members who questioned her last week.
When Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, suggested that Judge Barrett would vote in the same manner as the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative for whom she had clerked earlier in her career, she calmly responded, “I assure you I have my own mind.”
And when the Committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, asked her whether she believed that Medicare was unconstitutional, she cited the “Ginsburg Rule,” so named for the late justice she will be following, of providing “no hints, no previews, no forecasts.”
Perhaps one of the most powerful witnesses to speak in support of Judge Barrett was her former law student at Notre Dame, Laura Wolk.
Ms. Wolk is totally blind, but before pursuing the “impossible dream” of becoming the first blind law clerk at the Supreme Court last year, she was struggling with her classwork as a first-year law student, fearful of failing.
Laura recalled, “Judge Barrett leaned forward and looked at me intently. ‘Laura,’ she said, with the same measured conviction that we have seen displayed throughout her entire nomination process, ‘this is no longer your problem. It’s my problem.’”
Ms. Wolk went on to say that Judge Barrett helped her see a pathway to success. She said the Judge will “serve this country with distinction not only because of her intellectual prowess, but also because of her compassionate heart and her years of treating others as equals deserving of complete respect.”
When Judge Barrett raises her right hand to take the oath to “administer justice without respect to persons” and to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” it will be a win-win for every female – young and old alike during the past 100 years – who has dreamed of seeing women advance to the top positions of our government.
Moreover, it will be a signal to every little girl – and boy – that the most qualified individual will get the job.
Governors Kay Ivey of Alabama, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Kim Reynolds of Iowa authored this column.
Opinion | Hearings give public opportunity to weigh in on coal ash plans
ADEM will make sure the closure and cleanup of the coal ash sites will be done in a way that will protect the state’s land and water resources now and in the future.
The mission of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management is to ensure for all Alabamians “a safe, healthful and productive environment.” It’s a mission that ADEM and its nearly 600 employees take very seriously.
Ensuring a safe, healthful and productive environment means more than simply being the environmental cop, though that certainly is part of ADEM’s job. When the Alabama Legislature passed legislation in 1982 that led to the creation of ADEM, lawmakers’ intent was for the agency to promote public health and well-being.
The term “healthful” in ADEM’s mission statement speaks directly to that. ADEM’s work is to contribute to the health of Alabama’s environment and the health of all Alabamians.
An example of that work is managing the process that will determine how coal combustion residuals (CCR) – or coal ash – are dealt with in a safe and effective manner. Managing CCR promotes a healthful environment by protecting our land and water.
On Oct. 20, ADEM will hold the first of a series of public hearings on permits drafted by ADEM to require electric utilities to safely close unlined coal ash ponds at their power plants and remediate any contaminated groundwater. The hearings, and the comment periods leading up to them, give the public the chance to provide ADEM input on the requirements in the draft permits.
To understand how we got to this point today, let’s go back to Dec. 22, 2008, in Kingston, Tenn. On that frigid night, the containment dike surrounding massive ponds holding decades worth of CCR produced by the coal-burning TVA power plant collapsed, spilling more than a billion gallons of coal ash sludge into the Emory River and onto 300 acres of land.
That spill drew the attention of regulators and the nation to the issue of coal ash storage, for which there was little regulation at the time. It also started the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the road to adopting a federal CCR rule, which took effect in 2015. The Alabama Environmental Management Commission approved a state CCR rule in 2018, patterned after the EPA rule.
The rules address two primary issues: closing coal ash ponds to avoid threats of spills into waterways or onto land, and preventing and cleaning up groundwater contamination from arsenic, mercury, lead and other hazardous elements that may leach from the coal ash.
Both the EPA and state rules give the electric utility operators two options in closing the ash ponds. One allowable method is to excavate the millions of tons of coal ash and either move the coal ash to a lined landfill or find an approved beneficial use for the ash. The other is to cap in place, where an impervious cover, or cap, is placed over the ash impoundment. Both methods have been used successfully for decades to close some of the most contaminated sites in the nation.
It must be emphasized that the closure method selection is made by the utilities, as allowed by both federal and state rules. Alabama Power, TVA and PowerSouth all elected to utilize the cap-in-place option.
The permits will also set out the steps to be taken to clean up contaminated groundwater caused by the coal ash ponds. ADEM’s job, in its environmental oversight role, is to ensure the closure and groundwater remediation plans proposed by the utilities and included in the permits meet federal and state standards and protect both waterways and groundwater. The permits provide for regular monitoring to confirm the closure and cleanup plans are being implemented as required. If necessary, the plans will be adjusted to ensure the intended results are being achieved.
Currently, ADEM has scheduled public hearings on the permits for three Alabama Power plants. The first is Oct. 20 for Plant Miller in Jefferson County, followed by Oct. 22 for Plant Greene County and Oct. 29 for Plant Gadsden in Etowah County. Permits for the other five sites in Alabama are in development, and hearings will be scheduled when they are complete.
The purpose of these hearings is to allow the public, including nearby residents, environmental groups and others, opportunities to weigh in on the proposed permits. This past summer, Alabama Power, TVA and PowerSouth held informational meetings in the communities where their affected plants are located to explain their proposed groundwater cleanup plans(including the CCR unit closure component) and answer residents’ questions.
The draft permits, the hearings’ dates, locations and times and other information are available on ADEM’s website, www.adem.alabama.gov. The public can also mail or email comments related to the permits, including the closure plans and groundwater remediation plans, directly to ADEM during the proposed permits’ 35-day minimum comment periods, which will run one week past the date of the public hearings. Those comments will be considered in the decisions to issue the permits, and ADEM will provide a response to each issue raised.
For maximum protection of the environment, ADEM encouraged the power companies to go beyond the minimum requirements of the state and federal CCR rules. ADEM’s scientists and engineers who analyzed the plans through an exhaustive review and revision process determined the final plans provide the environmental protections Alabamians expect and deserve. But we want to hear from the public.
Certainly, there are pros and cons of each option in closing the coal ash ponds. The daunting task of cleaning up contaminated groundwater will be undertaken regardless of which closure method is utilized. As one opinion writer recently said, there is no easy answer to the coal ash problem. But this is a matter we cannot duck. We must deal with our coal combustion residuals – by EPA requirement and for the sake of our environment.
Here’s what you can count on from your state agency charged with protecting your environment. ADEM will make sure the closure and cleanup of the coal ash sites will be done in a way that will protect the state’s land and water resources now and in the future.
Ensuring that is our mission.
Opinion | Now is the perfect time for upskilling into a high-demand job
This time of uncertainty for the unemployed and underemployed is a desperate struggle, and our hearts and prayers go out to those affected. It can also be, however, a time of unexpected opportunity.
If you lost your job and are looking for work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are certainly not alone. Here in Alabama, while our economy is recovering, nearly 800,000 Alabamians have filed an initial unemployment claim since March. The pandemic hurt the economy across the board, though workers in public-facing industries were hit especially hard.
This time of uncertainty for the unemployed and underemployed is a desperate struggle, and our hearts and prayers go out to those affected. It can also be, however, a time of unexpected opportunity. Those who use this time to enroll in a free training program to learn the new skills needed to “upskill” or retrain for a more resilient position will immediately improve their employment prospects and put themselves on a long-term pathway toward success.
Many Alabamians agree. A recent survey of unemployed and underemployed Alabamians commissioned by the Alabama Workforce Council and the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation found that nearly 60 percent are open to working in an industry different than the one that last employed them. The survey also noted that short, and free, education and training programs were preferred to receive a “certificate, certification or license”. This demonstrates that a vast majority of the unemployed and underemployed in our state recognize the importance of training to work in durable industries that are less susceptible to sudden economic shocks.
Fortunately for them and for all Alabamians, under Governor Kay Ivey’s leadership, Alabama is well positioned to retrain and “upskill” Alabamians who lost their jobs due to the virus outbreak into new positions with more resilient industries through existing programs provided by Alabama’s workforce system, as well as new programs.
As part of this effort, Alabama is one of only eight states to receive a federal Reimagine Workforce Preparation grant to provide opportunities for Alabama workers to develop new skills in high demand industries.
The grant of more than $17.8 million, funded by the CARES Act, will allow our state to launch additional educational and training programs to help Alabamians who were displaced by COVID-19 transition into new fields.
This grant is just one of many ambitious and innovative steps being taken by Alabama to grow our workers’ skills and make sure they have the support they need to find a rewarding and self-sustaining career.
The Alabama Workforce Council works to bring together business and industry leaders from across the state to help develop strategies that will ensure Alabama workers have the skills they need to thrive — and in industries that can better withstand economic traumas like that brought on by COVID-19.
AlabamaWorks, the official brand of the Alabama Workforce Council, serves as the network of interconnected providers of workforce services, including government agencies, educational institutions and private sector partners that train, prepare and match job seekers with employers.
It is through the AlabamaWorks website, located atwww.alabamaworks.com, that job seekers can find access to the tools they need — free training resources, hiring resources and career planning resources to help find in-demand jobs that are available right now.
Likewise, employers can also go to www.alabamaworks.com and find free resources to recruit, train, and hire workers.
Connecting Alabama workers to good jobs and employers to a skilled workforce is our most pressing objective and will help us achieve Alabama’s postsecondary attainment goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to Alabama’s workforce by 2025. As we plan for the economy we’ll need after the pandemic subsides, it is essential to connect workers to the upskilling pathways that provide them with new opportunities in rebounding fields and careers.
Tim McCartney, formerly of McCartney Construction in Gadsden, is the Chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council.