ACCS ready to ramp up training as retirement wave fuels job openings

With many skilled workers approaching retirement and growth in industries such as automotive and aviation creating new jobs, the Alabama Community College System will play a major role in attacking a potential headache for the state’s economy.

Separate reports from both Georgetown University and the University of Alabama point to jobs that could go unfilled across the state in coming years. ACCS workforce development officials are paying heed to the predictions and are already at work on ways to increase labor force participation and expand job-training programs.

“A large percentage of skilled workers across Alabama are approaching retirement age, and it is a critical priority that the next generation of workers receive the training they need to fill the job openings that are going to be created,” ACCS Chancellor Mark Heinrich says. “We are focusing on developing or expanding programs that address that need.”

The Georgetown “Recovery” report (June 2013) projects that between 2010 and 2020, there will be 790,000 job openings in Alabama, as new jobs are created and others vacated through retirements. A large percentage of those jobs will require post-secondary education or technical training.

Meanwhile, in the “State of the Workforce” report (May 2013), researchers at the University of Alabama project that the number of available jobs could outpace growth in the state’s labor force.  From a base in 2010, the shortfall in Alabama could approach 193,000 in 2020 and rise through 2030, according to the UA researchers.

“The state must therefore focus on worker skills and the projected shortfalls as the top priorities through 2030,” the UA report states.

ACCS already is deeply involved in efforts to expand the state’s labor pool. Last year, nearly 55,000 students were enrolled in the system’s career technical education courses, with many of them in high-demand skilled occupations. Another 45,000 people participated in customized worker training programs through ACCS partnerships with employers.

The system’s adult education program also offers an opportunity to boost labor force participation. Free adult education classes can help more than 600,000 working-age Alabamians without a high school diploma obtain a GED and enter the workforce or find a better job. Linking the GED with ACCS technical training could produce a needed supply of skilled workers.

Heinrich says the coming retirement wave of skilled workers in Alabama makes an expansion of ACCS training programs an urgent necessity. He said additional funding would allow ACCS to purchase new equipment, launch new customized training programs and expand workforce development initiatives, based on discussions with business leaders across Alabama.

“Our training programs are the pathway to a rewarding career and can ensure that Alabama has the workers it needs to accelerate economic growth,” he said.