The Alabama Public Radio news crew examines the issue of keeping skilled, educated workers from leaving the Gulf Coast. This continuing series of reports is titled “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. Last month, RPA Gulf Coast correspondent Guy Busby examined efforts by Airbus and Novelis Aluminum to work with local authorities to create well-paying jobs to prevent young locals from leaving. the region. Today, Guy continues his review, looking at similar efforts in the Mobile area that involve Governor Kay Ivey….
A third Airbus assembly line at Brookley, more Navy ships being built at Austal, the nation’s first aluminum rolling mill in 40 years at Bay Minette. Industry expansions will create thousands of jobs on the Gulf Coast. All of these workers will need training and preparation to meet the demand and prevent these workers from migrating to other parts of the country.
“This is truly an exciting time for the Mobile area,” Governor Kay Ivey said during a recent visit to the Gulf Coast. She says she is excited about the potential of the region.
“When we make a serious, not just lip service, commitment to improving our infrastructure, we set ourselves up for success in other ways, like our economy,” the Governor said. “These are projects like Airbus’ decision to add an additional 1,000 jobs and a third final assembly line for the expansion of A-320 production. It’s Austal, which is embarking on the production of steel warships It’s Evonik continuing to invest in its specialty chemicals plant It’s Canfor announcing plans for a new $210 million sawmill complex We’ve also seen a massive Novelis announcement in your neighboring county of Baldwin and as I pointed out earlier the port continues to undergo major upgrades and the airport is relocated to Brookley.
APR recently focused on Airbus’ Flight Path 9 program which prepares tertiary students to work in the company’s mobile area factory. Ivey says local four- and two-year colleges are also expanding programs to train these employees.
“Schools like the University of South Alabama and Bishop State prepare our young people to work at places like Austal and Airbus. As a state, we are setting big goals, like my Success Plus plan, which aims to add an additional 500,000 newly credentialed Alabamians to our workforce by 2025,” Ivey said. “I’m proud to report that since 2018, we’ve added over 200,000 newly accredited individuals, putting us on track to meet and exceed our goal.”
Ivey says not all Alabama high school graduates are ready for these jobs.
“Last week at the State Board of Education meeting, we took an important vote to close the gap between our graduation rate and college and career readiness rate. Let me explain what the problem is,” she explained. “The class of 2020 and 2021 graduation rate was 92%. College and career readiness rate was 76 % That’s a gap of 16 percentage points. We need to prepare our students and workers in Alabama for the jobs of tomorrow. The most important issue in this state and across the country is the education of our students and I repeat to you today that you have a governor fully committed to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to benefit from a quality education.
“Today we have added 300 more people to our plant in 2022 and we stand at around 1,500 employees, which again is a far cry from where we were seven years ago at around 300 employees. “, said Daryl Taylor, general manager. of Airbus Mobile. The company’s planned expansion will soon make Alabama one of the best aircraft manufacturing locations in the world.
“The state of Alabama is well on its way to becoming the second-largest commercial aerospace manufacturing state in the nation,” Taylor said. “The fourth largest commercial manufacturing city in the world. Not too bad when the others were about 100 years ahead. “Mobile, Alabama, three years from now will be the fourth largest airplane producer in the world. Ten years ago we didn’t produce any. It’s amazing,” said Bradley Byrne, former US congressman and now director of the Mobile Chamber of Commerce “We are literally on the world map. We know that at this point, with Airbus moving to the next level of production, we will now be bringing many international aviation suppliers to Mobile We know that the University of South Alabama is going to expand its biotechnology and biopharmaceutical technology parks. We know that Austal is about to add 2,000 more employees, producing a line of ships for the US Navy. So we are moving and we’re not slowing down at all,” Byrne observed.
Byrne says expansion into places like Airbus and Austal will mean more jobs than those on the assembly line.
“If you look at what’s happening around the state in these auto manufacturing hubs, they have as many supplier jobs as they have final assembly line manufacturing jobs,” he said. he declares. “So we’re looking forward to the same kind of activity here in aviation and I think we will.”
Plans to move Mobile Airport from its current location west of the city to the Brookley land near downtown and just off the I-10 freeway are also expected to mean more jobs.
“So it’s clearly in our commercial interest, in the interest of our economy to move this airport,” Byrne said. “I can tell you that we have headquarters that we are pursuing across the country and moving this airport is a key part of our ability to get the headquarters to move here.”
All of this expansion and the goal of keeping Gulf Coast workers on the local payroll and not elsewhere will depend on a skilled workforce.
“We have to make sure we produce the workforce that we need to make sure we can produce that level of economic activity, but I’m confident that with the University of South Alabama, Bishop State, all of our schools in this area, Coastal Alabama Community College, I’m confident we’ll get there,” Byrne said.
Local leaders say the region will rise to the challenges of training this workforce and keeping potential employees in the region. Again, Governor Kay Ivey.
People talk about Mobile because despite all the challenges some cities might face, your leadership has this bold vision and is always forward thinking. Mobile County has grown slightly over the past 10 years and I predict with this committed leadership from local officials and vibrant businesses and industries, this area will grow even more by the time we have our next census in 2030,” said the governor.
And Governor Ivey’s view is not limited to the Gulf Coast. Over the past few years, 65,000 new jobs have been created in the state with investments totaling over $32 billion. These current jobs and those planned for the future will require skilled workers as well as in Mobile and Baldwin counties.