The Lieutenant Governor's Commission on 21st Century Workforce met Wednesday in Birmingham to prepare recommendations to transform Alabama's workforce development initiatives.

The Legislature created the commission in 2019 and charged it with charting a path to improve workforce competitiveness and Alabama's low labor force participation rate.

"When you look at all that our state has to offer, you begin to realize that with an aligned and centrally coordinated plan for success, Alabama is primed to be the workforce engine of the Southeast," Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said. "It has been a privilege to work with this fantastic group of leaders, both elected and in the business community, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of Alabama's workforce system and needed improvements. We need to be able to effectively recruit, train and employ Alabamians for the in-demand jobs of today and the jobs of the future."

In addition to Ainsworth, members of the commission are Alabama Power Company CEO Jeff Peoples, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative CEO Gary Smith, Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook), State Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Dothan), State Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham), State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), State Rep. Kelvin Lawrence (D-Hayneville), State Rep. Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn), and State Rep. Debbie Wood (R-Valley).

Garrett, who serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, said in a statement that Alabama's workforce initiatives must be aligned with the needs of business and industry and that Alabama needs a "quarterback" to ensure coordination on workforce development efforts. 

 "The talent and abilities valued and required by employers continue to rise and change, and our talent pipeline and our education and workforce training programs must improve to meet those challenges," Garrett said. "We also need to have a dedicated cabinet agency as a 'quarterback' to make sure the state's workforce development programs are aligned and coordinated. This will improve outcomes and reduce the burden on the taxpayer."

Lawrence said the time is now to begin laying out the future of Alabama's workforce system.

 "No matter what metric you look at with regard to labor force participation, Alabama is approximately 5% below the national average," Lawrence said. "The time is now for the state of Alabama to make improvements to our workforce system that can see us compete with other states when it comes to having a robust, well-trained workforce."

 The commission will submit its recommendations to the Governor and Legislature prior to the 2024 Legislative Session.

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