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Workforce Development Board backs college and career readiness bill


Workforce Development Board backs college and career readiness bill

Mar 30, 2023 | 7:58 am ET
By Ralph Chapoco
Workforce Development Board backs college and career readiness bill
Gov. Kay Ivey gives a thumbs-up to the crowd at her inauguration on Jan. 20, 2023. (Stew Milne/Alabama Reflector)

Workforce development advocates are urging supporters to back a bill for the coming legislative session to address information gaps for credentialing programs.

HB 109, sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, would make college or career readiness a requirement for high school graduation and create resources aimed at connecting students to career resources.

Nick Moore, the education policy advisor and coordinator for the Governor’s Office and Education and Workforce transformation, said during Wednesday’s meeting of the state’s Workforce Development Board that “we have some work to do in regards to our data capacity.”

“Some of the goals that we have set, things that we want to measure, we can’t fully do because we don’t have the investments in the technology that we need in regard to our data systems,” he said.

The bill mandates college or career readiness for high school graduation, putting a State Board of Education policy in the law. That requirement could be achieved in several ways, including completing an advanced test, taking a high school course for college credit, or obtaining professional or technical credentials.

The legislation would also establish a credential registry whose value would be determined by the Alabama Workforce Council, a group of business executives from different industries throughout the state.

The legislation would also create a platform within the Alabama Terminal on Linking and Analyzing Statistics (ATLAS) on Career Pathways Act that allows students and their parents to research careers that may interest them.

“Both students, and even their parents, can go online and see, ‘what are the in-demand jobs in my area, and what does it take to be qualified for those jobs,’” Collins said in an interview Wednesday. “Is it a credential? Is it a degree? They would then be able to know what to do to even be qualified to work.”

The council also heard an update on Gov. Kay Ivey’s goal, announced in 2018, to have 500,000 people earn professional or vocational credentials. Thus far, about 214,000 have done so.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that about 2.3 million Alabamians were in the workforce in January.

Valrie Eisele, the program manager for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, presented a report on the effort, with a focus on specific demographics.

Eisele’s presentation stated the research could only get reliable data for American Indians, Alaskan Natives or Native Hawaiians, a group who are identified as part of the special population group.

“Unfortunately, this is the only special population we can present a reliable count on,” she said. “That is because the data systems, and the information collected on these populations from 2018-2021, didn’t have the capacity to report or record these students to the extent that we would need.”

Eisele recommended using information in the system to measure the progress of certain demographic groups toward Ivey’s goal.

Eisele also said the council should update databases and software, and  streamline processes to allow for this type of reporting, and increase analytic capacity across state agencies. Eisele also said the agencies should prioritize data collection and analysis that answers key policy questions. Eisele’s presentation also suggested aligning and integrating data systems across education and workforce agencies, and continuing to increase access to post-secondary education, training and credential pathways to special populations.

Collins agreed.

“Once we have the ATLAS system up and working, we are going to need all the systems to be able to provide their data at a quality so that it is compatible with each other,” Collins said.