I. b. Plan Introduction or Executive Summary
The Unified or Combined State Plan may include an introduction or executive summary. This element is optional.
Over the last several years, Alabama has accelerated efforts toward strengthening the state’s education and workforce development systems. This work has incorporated and aligned the efforts of many partners in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, as well as citizens and stakeholders across the state. The State of Alabama’s 2020 Combined Plan for WIOA (2020 Combined Plan) represents a moment of opportunity to not only record and build on the success and collective impact of these efforts to date but also to articulate a vision and priorities for collaborative work over the next four years.
B. Two Lenses for Alabama’s Combined Plan
Alabama’s 2020 Combined Plan was developed in response to two key directives and, therefore, can be viewed through two key lenses.
(1) Technical Plan: Compliance with Federal Requirements
First, the 2020 Combined Plan must meet the requirements of federal law as outlined the following legislation:
- Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (Public Law 113-128) (July 22, 2014)
- Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) (July 31, 2018)
Compliance with these laws and guidelines allows Alabama to access much-needed funds for key state programs and initiatives and ensure it is aligned with best practices at the national level. As a result of this compliance focus, the plan includes some highly technical sections and components written by and for state agencies with specialized knowledge and expertise.
(2) Collaborative Plan: Responsive to Stakeholder Feedback
Secondly, the 2020 Combined Plan represents an opportunity to respond to the vision and needs of stakeholders across the state. These stakeholders were engaged in the planning process for the 2020 Combined Plan through a series of public engagement meetings that allowed individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to share a collective and collaborative vision for the state. As a result of this collaborative focus, the plan outlines programs, priorities, and initiatives that respond to key barriers that emerged in stakeholder feedback (see Section F).
C. Vision for Alabama’s Workforce Development System
Through the 2020 Combined Plan, Alabama seeks to create a strong workforce development system that is centered on competency-based career pathways into the middle class. This vision includes a focus the following key elements:
- Awarenesscampaign to build knowledge of available resources and opportunities
- One-stop career centers that serve as connections between employers, employees, and education and training resources
- Career exploration tools and resources readily accessible to all Alabamians
- Streamlined funding system that enables education and training entities to meet the needs of employers and potential or existing employees
- Public-private partnerships that increase capacity for meeting workforce needs
- Network of empowered Regional Workforce Councils that play a central role in bridging business needs with a talent supply chain
- Longitudinal data system as an integral part of the strengthened workforce system
D. Plans, Priorities, and Partners Supporting the Vision
The vision outlined above is already being addressed through three key plans and initiatives in Alabama. These plans are complementary to one another and to the 2020 Combined Plan and include a set of five consistent themes or priorities. Moreover, several key coordinating entities are supporting implementation and achievement of the plans. The plans, priorities, and coordinating entities are described briefly in the narrative below.
(1) Key Plans Shaping Alabama’s Education and Workforce Development System
- Accelerate Alabama 2.0is Alabama’s strategic economic development growth plan focused on technology-focused, skill-based jobs that will create sustainable employment opportunities for Alabamians. Developed in 2017, the plan includes targeted business sectors and three key economic development drivers: Recruitment, Retention, and Renewal.
- Strong Start, Strong Finishis Governor Kay Ivey’s education initiative designed to integrate Alabama’s early childhood education, K-12 education, and workforce development systems into a seamless experience for all Alabamians. Strong Start, Strong Finish includes five critical benchmarks: Pre-K readiness, school readiness, literacy and numeracy, career exploration and discovery, and college and/or career readiness.
- Success Plus: Preparing Alabama’s Workforce for Opportunity and Growth is Alabama’s strategic plan for reaching its educational attainment goal of adding 500,000 highly skilled employees to the workforce by 2025. Approved by the Alabama Workforce Council in 2018, Success Plus includes five priorities for reaching the goal: awareness, access and success, pathways, leadership and collaboration, and assessment and continuous improvement. Engagement and input from 300 key partners and stakeholders and more than 1,500 additional residents of Alabama informed this plan.
(2) Common Themes and Priorities across the Plans
Across efforts to strengthen Alabama’s education and workforce development systems to date and looking ahead toward the future, a set of five key priorities provide a useful framework for collective efforts:
- Awareness: Making information about education, training, and jobs widely available
- Access and Success: Increasing access to education, training, and support for all individuals
- Pathways: Creating clear education and training tracks that lead to in-demand jobs
- Leadership and Collaboration: Working together across agencies, organizations, and systems
- Assessment and Continuous Improvement: Using data to inform decision making
(3) Key Partners and Coordinating Entities
While many partners are involved in the education and workforce system, the following key partners play important coordinating roles at the state and local levels.
- Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation (GOEWT): Established by Governor Ivey to ensure Alabama’s attainment and labor force participation goals are met through an equity-based framework
- Alabama Workforce Development Board (AWDB): Established to assist the Governor in the development, implementation, and continuous improvement of the WIOA and related programs in order to ensure alignment with the Alabama workforce development system including linkages among workforce development programs
- Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) and the Regional Workforce Councils: The AWC was established to provide a direct link to the workforce needs of business and industry, and, at the local level, there are seven multi-county regional workforce councils in Alabama
E. Alignment of Plans, Priorities, and Key Partners
The 2020 Combined Plan presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate and build on the alignment of existing plans, priorities, and key partners within the vision articulated in the plan. The diagram below shows the alignment of the plans, priorities, and key partners, as well as identifies a number of key programs and initiatives in development within each of the themes and priority areas and helping to develop opportunity for Alabamians from birth through career.
F. Addressing Stakeholder Priorities for Workforce Development
As part of the development of the 2020 Combined Plan, Alabama engaged local stakeholders in a series of seven local stakeholder input meetings. Two meetings were held in each of the state’s seven workforce council regions from between July and October 2019. Meetings served as listening sessions during which participants provided qualitative data in forms of verbal feedback and written response representing the needs and perspective of their community.
In the listening sessions, stakeholders were asked to provide one word to represent their vision for the future of Alabama’s workforce. The compilation of these words is graphically represented at the right.
In addition to a vision, stakeholders identified a number of challenges, barriers, and opportunities Alabama must address as it strives to improve the state’s workforce. The top themes and priorities that emerged from the stakeholder listening sessions as well as where they are addressed in the 2020 Combined Plan, are included in the table below.
|Priority or Theme||Stakeholder Insights|
|1. Transportation||Lack of transportation access directly impedes the public’s engagement in employment, vocational training, and educational opportunities|
|2. Childcare||Limited access to affordable, quality childcare programs during varied work hours prohibits the public’s engagement in employment and training opportunities|
|3. ADA Compliance and Disability Accommodations||Accessibility for disabled populations must be a priority to develop an inclusive plan for Alabama’s workforce; employees and employers need direct training and support on work sites in order to ensure all current and potential employees are able to meaningfully participate and remain in the workforce|
|4. Internet and Technology||Lack of access to broadband and up to date computer skills training is a barrier to Alabama’s workforce and employers|
|5. Education and Training||Direct access to quality and equitable education and training must exist in every community to strengthen Alabama’s future workforce|
|6. Communication and Accessibility||A unified, common message about all available services and supports is necessary. As part of this unification, Alabama needs a solidified system of access for providers, employers, and the general public to easily access and engage with available information and resources in one place.|
|7. Service Providers||Service providers need a shared system of accountability for reaching measurable goals. Services providers need updated processes to streamline access and information distribution as well as greater connection to community resources outside of their own organization|
|8. Health, Healthcare, and Benefits||Alabama’s workforce needs a system to ensure housing and food security stability while working to obtain employment; this system must provide an interim or gap coverage for those on SSDI/SNAP benefits who are indirectly discouraged from entering the workforce due to the risk of losing benefits|
|9. Employer Support||Employers need a streamlined process to access information and engage with local service providers|
|10. Equitable Access and Success||Alabama must focus on populations with significant barriers to career attainment opportunities, including disabled and special needs individuals, English Language Learners (ELL), GED students, first-generation college students, low-income individuals, minorities, rural residents, and single parent heads of household|