(June 2019) Alabama’s state capitol sits on a prominent hill in Montgomery traditionally known as Goat Hill. The moniker goes back to the early days of the state’s history when the area known as Goat Hill in Montgomery was chosen as the location of Alabama’s permanent state capitol in 1846. I don’t know if goats really lived there before the capitol was built, but flash forward to 2019 and there’s a new goat on the hill – and this one is spelled GOEWT.

GOEWT is the acronym for the new Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation. According to Governor Kay Ivey, the mission of GOEWT is multifaceted. The office is charged with increasing the state’s labor force participation rate, surpassing the Alabama post-secondary attainment goal of 51 percent, and creating career pathways – for youth, adults, and those who are disengaged with the workforce – in 16 career clusters.

The new office will be responsible for implementing both Governor Ivey’s Strong Start, Strong Finish education initiative and the Alabama Workforce Development Strategic Plan. To that end, the GOEWT has three major objectives: (1) braid all of Alabama’s federal education and workforce development funding streams to support in-demand career pathways, (2) steward the development of the Alabama Terminal for Linking and Analyzing Statistics (ATLAS) on career pathways, and (3) develop the Alabama Industry-Recognized and Registered Apprenticeship (AIRRAP) program.

Alabama is currently facing four major challenges in our workforce.

Low participation rate. Even though more Alabama citizens are working than ever before, Alabama’s workforce participation rate hovers at around 57 percent. That’s the 3rd lowest participation rate in the U.S.  Only 57 percent of working-age Alabamians are working or trying to find a job. That means that 43 percent of working-age Alabamians are not working, not even looking for work, and are not engaged in any way in the state’s workforce.

Forgotten middle skill jobs. Middle skill jobs are those than require some education or training beyond high school, but not as much as a four-year degree. As you have been hearing lately, Alabama has more job openings than skilled workers to fill those openings. As of 2015, 59 percent of Alabama’s jobs require those middle skills, but only 47 percent of the state’s workers meet those qualifications.

Low unemployment rate. While record low unemployment rates and record high numbers of Alabamians working is certainly great news for Alabama, it is also creating a struggle for business and industry. With so few people seeking employment, companies can’t fill open positions and those looking to expand can’t find enough workers to staff their expansions.

Educational attainment. Alabama’s 2017 postsecondary education attainment rate was 43 percent. Only 43 percent of the state’s workers have any training or education beyond their high school diploma. To keep up with demands of Alabama’s growing job market, that attainment rate needs to increase to, at least, 52 percent by 2025. With the state’s new job growth driving demand for more highly-trained, technical workers, and with well-trained and experienced baby boomers leaving the workforce by way of retirement, we have to get the message out to students – and their parents – that post high school training and education is imperative to their individual success, and to the success of the state as a whole.

Another way to look at the GOEWT is  as a kind of clearinghouse that will allow the state to start blending together all of the statewide education and workforce initiatives and funding sources that are already in place, creating collaborative connections and alignment between workforce development programs, the Alabama State Department of Education, the Alabama Community College System, local school systems and their Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, business and industry, and the numerous other stakeholders who are invested in making sure that Alabama has a strong, well-trained, and competitive workforce for the future.