Are Alabamians equipped with the skills needed to fill current and future jobs ? The simple answer is yes and no. A topic of discussion among many in economic and workforce development deals with the “skills gap” or “skills mismatch”.
Alabama has a fairly well educated population. Approximately 83.4% of Alabamians have a high school education or GED and, of that number, 52.2% have some college or more. The skills mismatch comes into play when you look at the jobs available. In 2015, 42% of jobs in Alabama required a high school education or GED and 36% required some college or more.
The mismatch is obvious when you compare the number of college-educated people to the numbers of jobs that require some college or more. Based on these percentages, we have huge numbers of people in an underemployed status.
So where do we start to mend our skills mismatch? The answer lies mainly within communication, but also in education and effort. The first step lies within our schools to communicate occupation and industry trends to the school counselors, parents, and students.
Education can take more of a proactive approach to flexibility within curricula to meet changing demands for industry. This most often, is weakened by a lack of a reliable funding structure for education in Alabama. This is not a new problem; it’s been an obstacle of true progressive education for many years.
The other is for industry to be more willing to approach a mentor/apprenticeship partnership with schools in their communities. By taking an active approach in educating students in the schools, they are more likely to find and train the workers of tomorrow, today. Hopefully the passage of the Apprentice Alabama bill this year will go a long way towards making this part of the equation a reality.
It takes time to educate and train, this issue will not be repaired overnight. Effectively addressing the skills gap will require a concerted effort and collaboration among parents, educators, industries, and economic and workforce development personnel.