Workforce Development and Talent Incentives
Intro to Concept
For employers and local economies alike, talent is the new currency. In the global economy, communities seeking to spur economic development cannot fixate solely on industry relocation and expansion because companies need skilled labor; therefore, companies will go where they believe they can attract and retain talent. Place-based workforce development initiatives that serve the needs of both employers and job seekers are becoming increasingly important for communities to compete, grow, and thrive in the 21st century. Broad community engagement, proactive program development, and innovative incentives are essential for success in Bay Minette and throughout the Heartland.
In north Baldwin County, the following programs and initiatives should be considered:
- Bay Minette Forward
- Stay in the Bay Incentive
State and Regional Assets
Although the following list is not conclusive, Bay Minette is fortunate to have many statewide and regional assets/resources contributing to the development and long-term sustainability of their workforce ecosystem, including:
Coastal Alabama Community College (CACC):
CACC is a public two-year institution, a member of the Alabama Community College System and governed by the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees. The Alabama Community College System consists of twenty-three comprehensive community colleges, and technical colleges; Marion Military Institute; and the Alabama Technology Network, an extensive workforce development initiative. CACC is located in Baldwin, Monroe, Clarke, Choctaw, and Escambia Counties in south Alabama, has locations in Bay Minette, Atmore, the Academy at the Fairhope Airport, Brewton, Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Monroeville, Thomasville, Gilbertown, Jackson, the North Baldwin Center for Technology, the South Baldwin Center for Technology, and Fountain. The Bay Minette campus serves as CACC’s regional administrative facility and is their largest campus in the system enrolling nearly 5,000 students annually.:
Baldwin County Public School System (BCPS):
BCPS is an award-winning, accredited public school system serving more than 31,000 students across Baldwin County. In the Fall 2019, the $17.4 million Bay Minette Elementary School opened its doors to students K-6th grade, featuring 49 “smart” classrooms, dedicated space for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) learning, a fully-equipped media center and more.
Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council (SAWDC):
SAWDC Alabama Works is an employer-established and employer-led non-profit organization whose mission is to develop strategic partnerships which attract, educate and train students and workers to better meet employer needs and foster economic growth in a global marketplace. One of the premier workforce development coalitions in the southeastern United States, SAWDC is comprised of over 40 business leaders, 6 community college presidents, 12 school system superintendents supported by a full-time staff of professionals working together to ensure a steady supply of qualified workers. The organization focuses on four key industry clusters for recruiting and training including aerospace, advanced manufacturing, maritime, healthcare, and other related industries.
Alabama Career Centers:
Alabama’s network of “one-stop centers” and satellites are strategically located throughout the state. Job development, occupational and educational training, vocational rehabilitation, veterans’ services and unemployment insurance information are offered. Employers work with local centers to locate employees with specific skills, and the goal is to consolidate the delivery of services at a single location. Many centers are electronically linked with partner agencies, such as the Alabama Department of Commerce, Human Resources, Rehabilitation Services, and Education, two-year colleges, and others. Two career centers are located in Baldwin County including the: Bay Minette Career Center and Foley Career Center.
Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT):
AIDT was established to build a healthy state economy by recruiting and training a skilled workforce to attract new industries to the state and to expand existing industries. Job-specific pre-employment and on-the-job training programs are provided. AIDT offers a full range of customized technical training and leadership development programs at no cost to employers and trainees. In addition to training, AIDT offers services such as trainee recruitment and screening, safety assistance, industrial maintenance assessments and continuous improvement/process improvement assessments. Training is conducted by AIDT staff or contracted instructors and delivered through classrooms or Mobile Training Units (MTUs) that go directly to the employer site and provide classroom and hands-on training customized to meet specific industry needs.
In January 2017, the Alabama Department of Commerce officially launched Apprenticeship Alabama, a program committed to ensuring employers in Alabama have the tools needed to develop an industry-driven, Registered Apprenticeship (RA) program. The program offers tax credits to companies that hire qualified apprentices who receive classroom or industry-specific instruction and on-the-job training. For workers, RAs offer opportunities to earn a salary while learning the skill trade necessary to succeed in high-demand careers. Apprenticeship Alabama follows the U.S. Department of Labor guidelines for apprenticeships and focuses on five industry sectors targeted in the state’s strategic plan for growth, Accelerate Alabama, including: healthcare, construction/carpentry, information technology, distribution/transportation/logistics, and advanced manufacturing/industrial maintenance. As of November 2019, there were no RA programs in Bay Minette.
Bay Minette Forward
By embracing a holistic approach to economic and community development, north Baldwin County can and will attract and retain the next generation of workforce. In order to do this, it is important to first take into account what talented candidates consider when it comes to a new job opportunity and location decisions.
|Top Factors: Considering a New Job Opportunity|
|Meaningful or innovative work||7.9|
|Location of new opportunity||7.8|
|1 = Not important, 10 = Very important|
|Top Factors: Location Decisions|
|Cost of living||8.4|
|Job opportunity for spouse/partner||7.1|
|Proximity to family||7.0|
|Alternative job opportunities in new location||6.8|
|Proximity to friends and others in same demographic/age||6.5|
|Outdoor recreational amenities||6.5|
|Quality of K-12 education||6.2|
|Post-secondary educational opportunities||5.7|
|1 = Not important, 10 = Very important|
To capitalize on this potential for talent attraction, north Baldwin County should form a partnership team to launch Bay Minette Forward. At a minimum, this team should include representatives from:
- City of Bay Minette
- Baldwin County
- Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance
- Coastal Alabama Community College
- Baldwin County Public School System
- South Alabama Workforce Development Council
- Alabama Career Center
- Local businesses (at least 5 – small, medium, and large)
The purpose of Bay Minette Forward is to assess and enhance the local workforce system in the region then identify and implement strategies to better promote the economic opportunities and quality of life in the region. This initiative also provides an opportunity for cross-sector partners to meet regularly and collaborate more effectively to strengthen the economic and workforce development efforts in north Baldwin County. This strategic partnership will prove to be an invaluable resource to local employers and job seekers and will also enhance industry expansion and recruitment efforts for regional economic development firms.
To address workforce sustainability, the partnership team should consider the following questions:
- How has our population grown and changed?
- How has our economy and workforce changed?
- What issues are our employers facing today in terms of workforce availability?
- What economic development can we expect in the next decade?
- Are we developing sufficient talent to meet demand?
- Are we utilizing all of the workforce programs and resources at our disposal (e.g., pre-apprenticeship, registered apprenticeship, work-based learning, federal and state funding, tax credits, etc.)?
- How are we promoting our community and region to both internal and external audiences?
Most rural communities have two major challenges: human capital and perception. Bay Minette Forward will address both of these challenges through a strategic marketing campaign and incentive program to attract and retain talent and fill the available jobs (and future openings) in high-growth sectors. To do this effectively, it is important to formulate our message for both an internal audience (e.g., current residents, company recruiters, “influencers” in the relocation process such as real estate agents, local businesses and educators, students attending local and regional colleges and universities, and private and public leaders) and an external audience (e.g., prospective “boomerangs” who previously lived in the region but moved away, prospective talent in target markets and target industries, etc.).
It is less important to communicate all points and more important that Bay Minette communicates its most important points well.
Presented below is an example of a Bay Minette Forward advertisement.
Several marketing tactics can and should be deployed such as:
Bay Minette Talent Training Day
- Engage local employers and influencers in a “talent training day”
- Provide regular updates to existing and new groups
- Incorporate Bay Minette Forward (aka “why Bay Minette”) key messages on company websites
- Incorporate Bay Minette Forward (aka “why Bay Minette”) key messages on company websites
- Capitalize on existing collateral
- Print selectively:
- “A Perfect Day in Bay Minette” (or north Baldwin County)
- Launch your career in Bay Minette
- Make your dream home a reality in Bay Minette
- Create a digital gateway for Bay Minette jobs, employers, relocation and lifestyle information
- This can include an area map, geotargeted content, jobs portal, blog, success stories, real estate, events calendar, form submissions, gallery, etc.
- Provide links to relevant websites and social media accounts
- Connect employers, working professionals, and other influencers with high school and community college students
- In some cases, local community college students can be ambassadors for transient students and external talent
- Leverage ambassadors for content creation, especially on social media networks
- Host ambassador gatherings with new and future students, residents
- Leverage local influencers (e.g., local college and high school students, working professionals, local businesses, etc.)
- Stay consistent by posting interesting content regularly
- Collaborate with local and regional partners
Tell Your Story
- Promote Bay Minette via digital advertising
- Be proactive with outreach to local and national media
- Pitch attractive storylines to use the press to change perceptions
Stay in the Bay Incentive
In addition to Bay Minette Forward, the city should launch a cooperative effort in the Stay in the Bay Incentive (SBI) program. The purpose of SBI is to not only incentivize talent with specific skills and expertise to move to Bay Minette, but also to remain in north Baldwin County long-term to support the growth of industry, increase local tax revenue, and contribute socially and culturally to the community. There are a variety of ways Bay Minette can lure working professionals to the area, but with a large community college based in the area, even more focus should be placed on immediate talent retention so long as the CACC graduates are meeting real time needs of industry. SBI can target a specific type(s) of working professional (e.g. soft and hard skills or trade) or can open up the incentive to include a wider net of people willing to move to the region. Regardless of who is recruited and why, there are a number of ways to encourage these individuals to move to or stay in the area including:
- Student debt forgiveness
- Housing assistance (e.g. monthly stipend)
- Relocation expenses
- Office space
The type of incentive(s) offered and the amount allocated per person will vary based on the number of participants, type of working professional and funding availability, among other things. For the purpose of SBI, the consultant team recommends the following model to be adopted and customized based on industry needs and risk tolerance.
SBI should offer:
- Up to $7,500 in student debt forgiveness; and
- Up to $200 in monthly housing assistance (e.g. for rent or mortgage).
The student debt forgiveness should be paid in thirds at a rate of $2,500 each year the individual is employed at a participating organization. The monthly housing assistance should be provided to each participant for up to 36 months so long as they continue to live and work in the community. If a participant does not have student debt, this money can be used for additional housing assistance or relocation expenses.
In 2021, SBI should publish an application for qualified working professionals and approve five of them to receive the incentive offerings for up to three years. Beginning in 2022, SBI should recruit five new participants each year using a revolving fund model. After year three, the incentive will expire for each participant.
How is SBI funded?
Talent incentive programs can be funded in a variety of ways. Based on an assessment of industry needs and community engagement, SBI should be collaboratively funded by at least 20 participating employers, the City of Bay Minette, Baldwin County, North Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, Coastal Alabama Community College, and Baldwin County Public Schools. This, however, can and likely will change as local/regional needs evolve and partnerships develop. For the purpose of the proposed financial model, each of the aforementioned organizations should contribute at least $3,500 per year and each employer should contribute at least $2,500 per year. These contributions will allow Bay Minette to support five new people every year and will expand the workforce pipeline for targeted industry sectors. While not every contributing business will hire each year, pooling resources will – in the long run – result in cost savings for each employer recruiting employees on their own timeline. In fact, each business would only have to tap into SBI every 5.5 years to see a one-for-one return on investment.
The businesses can also benefit from the program if it is administered by a single entity such as the North Baldwin Chamber of Commerce or Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance. This will reduce the amount of overhead each organization needs to commit to SBI and ensure all 20 participating businesses reap the benefits of the program, including a skilled workforce that will likely bring with them families, creating a multiplier effect across the regional economy. The administering organization should have fiscal management responsibility for SBI, ensure that all businesses have a chance to tap into the talent incentive as needed, and continue to recruit local employers so the incentive program’s revolving fund can continue to grow and recruit/retain more talent in Bay Minette.
In the initial years of the program, there might not be five participants taking advantage of the incentives. Regardless of this, it is important to utilize a portion of the revolving fund for administration and marketing of the program. It will take time to grow awareness about the program, but recent press indicates talent incentive programs are becoming more and more sought after by young talent. Ideally, SBI will sunset at a time to be determined by the organizing entity based on local employers’ ability to fill jobs and retain talent in the region.
Why should Bay Minette consider offering talent incentives?
Rural communities are more susceptible to declining populations compared to their urban counterparts. Typically, people abandon rural communities because they lack big city amenities and quality of life offerings. But urban areas are expensive and crowded, and many people who move to urban places are willing to move back to rural communities given the right circumstances. Sometimes people who come from small communities just want to experience life in a big city but don’t necessarily want to live there for the rest of their lives. Offering an enticing incentive package to these types of people will play a major role when making their decision to move or stay put. Not only will this support the needs of local employers, SBI will also help increase local tax revenue and create (potentially) nationally recognized buzz around an innovative talent incentive program.
Case Study: Remote Shoals
In June 2019, the Shoals Chamber of Commerce and the Shoals Economic Development Authority (SEDA) implemented Remote Shoals – a remote worker incentive program designed to bring remote tech workers to the cities of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, and Sheffield located in northwest Alabama.
- $10,000 cash
- Low cost of living
- Welcoming community
- Creative culture
- Minimum annual income: $52,000
- Able to move to the Shoals within 6 mos.
- Full-time remote employment or self-employed outside of Colbert and Lauderdale counties
- 18+ and eligible to work in the U.S.