The education community works to prepare students for the workforce

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – Alabama’s economy is growing, and higher education leaders want to make sure students have the skills they need to thrive in today’s workforce.

“We need to make sure that what we’re offering is really what employers need in this state,” said Jim Purcell, executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE).

That’s why ACHE held a meeting at Alabama State University Thursday to discuss how colleges and universities and local employers can work together to better prepare students for employment after they graduate. Purcell said he developed a workforce education needs list to specifically identify what each region in the state is looking for in an employee.

“We really invited community leaders within these areas and campuses, of course, who are helping them, and helping them connect and really talk about real issues,” Purcell said.

In 2021 alone, the state Department of Commerce reported adding over ten thousand new and future jobs, and it is up to higher education leaders to ensure students have the skills they need after graduation to work in these industries.

Sometimes students graduate and cannot find a job with their degrees. Educators say they need a better idea of ​​what these employers are looking for in their next candidate so they can provide their curriculum to better prepare students.

Purcell said they need to work to keep the public economy supported by people who have the skills to keep the economy growing.

“Because it’s already so advanced in technology, they really have to acquire some additional skills so that they can be marketable in the device,” Purcell said.

Purcell said Alabama predicted to replace about 25% of the workforce in about 20 counties with automation.

“There’s going to be job losses here, unless we can build an artificial infrastructure that attracts the business industry that comes to Alabama,” Purcell said.

It’s all in hopes of dealing with one of the state’s biggest problems: keeping good talent at home in Alabama.

Gov. Kay Ivey has set a goal of 500,000 job seekers by 2025. According to the Commission on Higher Education, two-thirds of all new jobs created in Alabama will require a four-year degree. However, education officials also point out how many quality jobs are available to two-year degree recipients or specially trained school graduates.

Purcell added that some of the degrees that employers are looking for now include manufacturing at the associate’s level and promoting health and clinical sciences to bachelor’s degrees.

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