Cooperation, collaboration and coordination were key takeaways from a recent meeting of the Alabama Workforce Council’s (AWC) Public-Private Partnership Committee. The Nov. 18 meeting at Birmingham’s Red Mountain Theater was the first in-person meeting since 2019 for the committee, which focuses on building the highly skilled workforce Alabama needs to meet current and future challenges and opportunities.
The AWC includes business, government and education leaders from across Alabama. Aligning current workforce development needs with future goals is a primary goal of the Public-Private Partnership Committee. This includes coordinating programs and policies to remove employment barriers and supporting community investment in education and training to ensure future workforce needs are met.
“Our mission is to reduce barriers to the Alabama workforce,” said Phil Webb, owner of Heflin-based Webb Concrete and Building Materials and chairman of the AWC’s Public-Private Partnerships Committee. “Facilitating opportunities for high-wage skills and careers has never been more important to the present and future of Alabama and its people than it is right now.”
Webb said fostering greater collaboration among Alabama’s seven regional workforce councils is a priority as the committee works to solve problems and identify opportunities to invest time and resources in workforce development. He also pointed to partnerships with approximately 40 nonprofits across Alabama that are key partners in ensuring the state’s ability to successfully compete for the jobs of the future — and federal grants that can shorten the path to competitiveness.
“Nonprofits are working together more and more purposefully,” said Hallie Bradley, manager of strategic initiatives for the Alabama Power Foundation, which hosted the meeting. In addition to AWC, the foundation supports workforce development through grants in strategic areas.
“We look at services that help people at all levels of the workforce,” Bradley said of the foundation’s approach. “We want to help nonprofits coordinate around shared goals, including securing federal grants that impact workforce development issues in their localities and across the state.”
Mary Ila Ward, owner of Horizon Point Consulting and Huntsville-based workforce and leadership development specialist, gave the meeting’s keynote address. Ward offered advice on how to successfully navigate the changed world of work for both employers and employees.
The panel discussion highlighted the City of Birmingham’s progress in implementing a $10.8 million “Good Jobs Challenge” grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce as part of the U.S. Rescue Plan. The panel included Amanda Muller, director of civic design in the office of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin; Zhaundra C. Jones, vice president of philanthropy and education for the Women’s Foundation of Alabama; and Emily Wykle, key account manager for startup accelerator gener8tor and current board chair of the Central Six workforce development nonprofit AlabamaWorks! The interview was moderated by JW Carpenter, President of Prosper Birmingham.
A grant from the Department of Commerce enabled the creation of the Birmingham Region Health Partnership, a training program for health professionals. Targeting women, people of color and other traditionally underserved communities, this program will increase access to high-quality health care jobs—including complex services like transportation and child care—while building a pool of skilled workers. In addition to the City of Birmingham, the partnership is supported by Jefferson County, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Greater Birmingham Regional Planning Commission, Birmingham Business Alliance, Innovate Birmingham, Prosper and Central Six.
“This demonstrates the value of collaboration,” Jones said of the regional health partnership. “Building the partnerships we need to succeed makes us stronger.”
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)