By TIM MCCARTNEY, Alabama Workforce Council
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 at www.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.