Alabama: 21st Century Workforce Act

With a groundswell of support from employers, parents and policymakers across the state, Alabama passed the 21st Century Workforce Act into law in 2013. The Act authorized an unprecedented $50 million to procure equipment for  Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. The way that the legislation was implemented, using this appropriation to review and update CTE programs, offers a model for other states to consider when revising the quality of their own CTE programs.

The 21st Century Workforce Act was passed in 2013 in support of Governor Robert Bentley’s Accelerate Alabama plan, a strategic economic development plan that identified 11 targeted business sectors and outlined strategies to develop the state’s economy. Among the plan’s recommendations was the need to align Alabama’s CTE programs with the demands of existing industries. In an effort to modernize CTE across the state, the Alabama legislature authorized a $50 million bond through the 21st Century Workforce Act to purchase equipment for CTE programs. The Act authorized $30 million to be distributed proportionally - $10 million based on the number of CTE programs in the district and $20 million based on the number of students enrolled in CTE. The remaining $20 million was set aside in a competitive grant fund to be administered by a 21st Century Workforce Grant Committee.

Policy in Action
In a memo to local education agencies, former State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice outlined his priorities for the $20 million competitive grant: to ensure CTE programs were equipped to industry standards; to implement new and innovative programming; and to implement career academies that align with high-demand, fast-growth jobs in the state. Through a competitive proposal review process, in which CTE officials sat down with local education administrators to review their programs, the Grant Committee identified and funded programs that were aligned with the 11 targeted business sectors in the Accelerate Alabama plan. The review process also helped the state identify and phase out programs that didn’t meet this bar. In total, 75 new CTE programs opened and 20 closed or converted during the 2013-14 school year, largely due to the 21st Century Workforce Grant.

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Published: 
January 2013