JobKeeper Alliance to Activist Groups: Stop Blocking the Beltline

The Northern Beltline will create thousands of construction jobs and drive economic growth throughout Birmingham and surrounding communities. However, activist lawyers at the Southern Environmental Law Center are trying to block construction of the Beltline.

The Southern Environmental Law Center and their client, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, claim their objection to the project is about the environment. The truth is that they simply want to stop new growth. The Northern Beltline is just one in a long list of projects targeted by this group. Over the past 5 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has actively opposed 13 road and highway projects in 5 states. It is important for the people of Birmingham to know that the SELC has made a practice of blocking new job-creating projects, regardless of whether they can prove any environmental harm. 

As if blocking jobs were not bad enough, the SELC is trying to force taxpayers to fund their obstruction efforts. According to federal court records, they have asked as part of their lawsuit to receive both attorney fees and expenses. In other words, if they block the Beltline, they get paid. While Birmingham is trying to build a stronger economy, these groups only seem interested in blocking jobs and stopping new growth.

“Our message to the SELC and Black Warrior Riverkeeper is simple,” JobKeeper Executive Director Patrick Cagle said.  “Drop your lawsuit and stop blocking the jobs and economic growth our region needs.”

A number of Birmingham-area business leaders also weighed in on the Northern Beltline project, as well as the legal opposition to it.

“The Northern Beltline has been the #1 priority of the Birmingham Business Alliance for years because of the jobs and economic development opportunities it will help create for our region,“ remarked Brian Hilson, President and CEO of Birmingham Business Alliance.

“I applaud the efforts of the JobKeeper Alliance in bringing to light those organizations blocking job creation at a critical time when economic growth is vitally needed in our state,” added Mike Thompson, Chairman of the Coalition for Regional Transportation. “We need this Beltline and the economic impact it will bring to our communities. Mostly, we need jobs for the people in these communities, and we need them now.”

Members of the community are asked to visit and make their voice heard.


Manufacture Alabama and Jobkeeper Alliance Host Workshop For 5,000 Students at JLDC Conference

Over 5,000 middle and high school students attended the “You Have a Career Path in Manufacturing” workshop hosted by Manufacture Alabama and JobKeeper Alliance at the 2012 Joint Leadership Development Conference (JLDC).

The JLDC is an annual event sponsored by the Career and Technical Education (CTE) division of the Alabama Department of Education. The two-day conference focuses on preparing students for leadership, career, and postsecondary success.

Representatives from Manufacture Alabama member companies presented students with a program that expanded their understanding of modern manufacturing. During the workshop, students learned about careers that are directly related to the manufacturing process as well as careers that most people do not associate with manufacturing companies such as in-house healthcare professionals.

“This is our second year to host a workshop at the JLDC and we look forward to returning again next year,” Manufacture Alabama Director of External Affairs Blake Hardwich said. “This event gives us a chance to tell students about the rewarding and high-paying careers available at today’s high-tech manufacturing companies.”

JobKeeper Alliance, International Paper, and U.S. Steel sponsored the workshop. Representatives from GKN Westland Aerospace, Nucor Steel, RockTenn, and Toray Carbon Fiber spoke to students during the workshop.

Gulf Coast shipbuilders struggle to replace aging workforce

MOBILE, Alabama — As John Lotshaw sees it, there’s a difficult job ahead of him.

The director of operations, workforce training and development at Huntington-Ingalls Industries, the parent company of Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, has to hire up to 2,000 new workers for the shipyard in the next 12 months.

It’s not new work behind the number of positions available, rather, it’s older workers who are retiring and leaving unfilled spaces behind in an industry where the average age of the workforce just keeps climbing.

“The ability to support the industry base for those skill sets at this time is very concerning,” said Vic Rhoades, director of BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards Alabama in Mobile. “The industry really hasn’t done a good job in getting the word out to younger generations about this industry. As a result, those of us who are baby boomers want our kids to go to college.

“Young people don’t see this as a viable career path.”

Many in the industry cite a weak educational infrastructure and lack of advertising as the biggest hurdles in trying to get the attention of young workers. The average age of an employee at a major shipyard in southern Alabama or Mississippi is mid-forties.

“We have to make sure people understand the full picture of what we’re offering,” Lotshaw said. “There’s a very clear and proven career path in shipbuilding that leads to a very good, achievable, transferable career in the manufacturing industry. It is a skill set that a person can fall back on no matter what he does for the rest of his life. We need to make sure we clearly explain that case to government officials and schools.”

The nation’s commercial shipyards employ more than 50,000 workers to build and maintain non-Navy vessels, according to the Shipbuilders Council of America, the national trade association representing the U.S. shipyard industry.

Include the workers building ships for the U.S. Navy, and the number exceeds 100,000.

Lotshaw estimates thousands of those workers along the Gulf Coast will retire within the next decade. Adding to the headache of Baby Boomers leaving the manufacturing workforce, skilled craftsmen are already in short supply, he said.

Large shipyards such as Ingalls and Mobile’s Austal USA and BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards Alabama have turned to their own, sometimes extensive, internal training to combat the diminishing number of skilled craftsman in the workforce.

“If you talk to people in the shipbuilding industry, this problems exists everywhere — finding skilled workers,” Lotshaw said. “It’s broader than just the maritime industry. With contraction in industry and lack of incentive for people to enter the craft for a number a years, the result has been a stagnant workforce.”

Ingalls employs about 9,500 people in Pascagoula and 500 in Gulfport, building destroyers and amphibious transport ships for the Navy and national security cutters for the Coast Guard. Lotshaw said the average age of the Ingalls Mississippi workforce is about 43.

He said the company finds workers through an active partnership with the Mississippi community college system as well as a broader network of technical schools as far away as Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Jacksonville, Florida. Ingalls also brings in up to 2,000 people a year through its own internal training program.

“Because some of the skill sets for shipbuilding are shipbuilding unique, we’ve worked with the schools to develop the right kind of curriculum,” he said. “We have a need for about 2,000 employees a year.”

Ingalls is also anticipating the completion of the Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy training facility, set to be finished in March in Pascagoula. The $20 million, 76,000-square-foot academy is funded through Hurricane Katrina recovery money and will help Ingalls more than double its two- to four-year apprenticeship program from the 300 students it currently has.

BAE, one of the largest defense contractors in the world, has 650 full-time employees in Mobile and is in the midst of ramping up to 800 for its mostly commercial orderbook. Rhoades said only 14 percent of its workforce in Mobile is under 30, with the average employee age around 45.

Rhoades said the hardest skills to find are pipe fitters and welders, a problem that is not unique to the Gulf Coast. He said BAE invests heavily in workforce development programs and on-the-job training to grow its own stock of workers, a practice that’s one of the most important aspects of the business.

“As our craftspeople retire, they take decades of valuable experience with them,” he said. “We try to attract young people who are eager to learn about earning a good wage. They can get unparalleled experience in the trade of their choice.”

Rhoades said BAE utilizes resources provided by community colleges and internships, and hires directly from Alabama Industrial Development Training’s Maritime Training Center in Mobile. That $12 million facility, opened on the Causeway in January 2011, resembles stacks of shipping containers from around the world. It is split in half with one side used by Austal and the other by AIDT, a training arm of the state’s two-year college system.

As of mid-May, more than 700 people had gone through the center.

The shipyard also hires entry-level engineering or management employees directly from the University of South Alabama and has established internships with four major universities outside of the of state.

“The bottom line is, the shipyards have good jobs and they need people,” Rhoades said. “We are working with city officials to figure out how to work with schools’ administrations to reestablish vocational training as an alternative for those that don’t want to go to college.”

Austal, which has about 3,000 employees and is expected to add another 1,000 in the next year, has slightly younger workers, with the average age at 36 and 27 percent of its workforce under 30.

Austal spokesman Don Keeler said the company has hired more than 700 new employees who have completed a pre-employment training program through Austal’s partnership with AIDT. The shipyard also invests in an apprenticeship program and on-job-training that allows an employee to gain skills while working.

The growth of the aviation industry in southern Alabama, especially given Airbus’ recent announcement of a new final assembly line in Mobile, also is a concern of major shipbuilders in the area.

Rhoades said shipbuilding and aviation manufacturing share many of the same skills sets and that he believes many of the companies along the Gulf are worried about their ability to attract skilled laborers once Airbus sets up shop.

Keeler disagreed, saying Airbus and other possible aviation-related companies would cause concern only if the community had no room to grow. As new jobs lure people to the Gulf Coast, Austal plans to take advantage of the opportunity, he said.

“We will need to ensure that our compensation and benefits are market competitive, but that has always been our focus whether we are competing with BAE, ThyssenKrupp or Huntington-Ingalls,” Keeler said. “We welcome the aerospace sector and expect that the Mobile-area talent pool will increase in size.”

Rhoades isn’t convinced.

“It’s not just me that’s ramping up,” he said. “We all have the same skill sets, same requirements. There’s just not enough of skilled folks to meet the demands.”
by: Ellen Mitchell, Press-Register
August 4, 2012

Alabama jobs are threatened by out-of-state agenda

Montgomery, Alabama — Robert Kennedy Jr.’s mission to stop the export of U.S. produced coal is a threat to thousands of high-paying Alabama jobs, according to JobKeeper Alliance. The job-focused nonprofit organization warns that Nelson Brooke, an employee of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, is working to advance Kennedy’s anti-coal export agenda in Alabama.

Nelson Brooke and Black Warrior Riverkeeper have been vocal opponents of several new coal mining operations that are planning to mine in Alabama’s Black Warrior Basin.

JobKeeper says the opposition to these projects led by Nelson Brooke is really about stopping the export of Alabama coal. The group says their claim is supported by a photo published by the Huffington Post, showing Brooke actively participating in an anti-coal export rally led by Robert Kennedy Jr. in Portland, Oregon last May.

A week before Nelson Brooke attended the anti-coal export rally, he spoke out against the incentive bill passed by the Alabama legislature that helped bring a 1.2 billion dollar coal mining project to Alabama that is slated to create 450 new jobs paying an average annual salary of $125,000. During an interview with CBS 42 in Birmingham, Brooke said “unfortunately our state’s leaders think that polluting industries should be given handouts and that’s been the case for a long, long time. Them giving tax breaks to get this mine open quicker is a sham.”

Rep. Bill Roberts (R-Jasper) who sponsored the tax incentive bill for the coal mining industry sees things differently. “This 1.2 billion dollar coal mining project and the hundreds of jobs it will create would not be coming to Alabama without the incentive bill we passed,” Roberts said. “The investment Walter Energy is making in our state is twice as large as Airbus, so I think it makes sense for us to offer both companies the same type incentive package.”

Patrick Cagle, Executive Director of JobKeeper, says that stopping the export of Alabama-produced coal would send thousands of high-paying jobs overseas and devastate our state’s economy. “These new coal mining jobs are important to Alabama, and we are going to protect them,” Cagle said. “With the addition of these 450 new jobs, the coal industry will employ more Alabamians than the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance and the future Airbus assembly plant coming to Mobile, combined.”

JobKeeper Alliance supports measures that preserve Alabama’s natural assets and protects the environment, but believes those measures don’t have to come at the expense of working-class jobs. The Alliance is committed to combating misinformation from groups that seek to use the public’s concern for the environment to advance extremist job-killing agendas.

Airbus Mobile: It’s official – big jets will be manufactured in Alabama

MOBILE, Alabama — What began as “Project Hope” became a reality on Monday as Airbus announced plans to construct a $600 million aircraft assembly plant in Mobile, giving the European company its first factory on American soil and ushering in a new era of jet production in the historic port city.

Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Bregier said the company will assemble its A320 family of aircraft at the Brookley Aeroplex, employing 1,000 at full capacity and creating thousands more jobs at parts suppliers and other related businesses expected to locate near the plant.

“The town is right, the talent is right and the time is right,” Bregier said to raucous applause from hundreds gathered at a campaign-style rally in downtown Mobile. “Airbus is going to make world-beating A320 family of aircraft, right here in the United States of America.”

Airbus said it will break ground on the massive factory next summer and create more than 3,000 jobs during a two-year construction period. The plant is slated to deliver its first planes in 2016, and will be ramped up to full production of 40-50 planes annually by 2018.

Alabama will contribute $158 million in cash, tax breaks and other incentives toward the project, according to the state Department of Commerce. That includes $125 million in state incentives plus $33 million from city and county governments, according to Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. That money will pay for site preparation, new roads, worker training and other costs, Canfield said.

Airbus declined to comment on the incentives, referring questions about the package to state officials. But the company said the decision to invest in Alabama wasn’t purely financial.

“It was first and foremost a strategic move,” Bregier said. “We needed to be visible in the United States. … Our customers were telling us, ‘Why don’t you get closer to us?’ This will put us closer to them.”

Bregier also said the company “felt comfortable here, felt supported here. It is a true partnership.”

Gov. Robert Bentley said Airbus “recognized all that this state can offer expanding industries.”

“Alabama has the best workforce you’ll find anywhere in the U.S.,” he said. “When Airbus aircraft take to the skies, our pride and workmanship will soar along with them.” 

By: George Talbot 
July 2, 2o12


Skilled worker shortage targeted

MONTGOMERY | Mike Rowe, host of the television show “Dirty Jobs,” talks about the problem in a promotional commercial for “Go Build Alabama.”

“A third of Alabama’s skilled tradesmen are over 50, and they are retiring fast,” Rowe says in the commercial. “Yet who’s replacing them? No one.”

State economic and workforce development officials became aware of a growing shortage of skilled workers about three years ago, which led them to private and public efforts to promote skilled trades and highly technical training as early as middle school.

“We took our eye off the ball in the last 20 years and focused on everybody getting a bachelor’s degree,” said Lew Drummond, director of workforce development at Shelton State Community College.

Skilled trades and technical jobs that can earn $60,000 a year or more with benefits include welding, plumbing, industrial maintenance, precision machining and electrical engineering. There are opportunities in industries such as biotech, computers, aviation and shipbuilding.

Community colleges are responding to the shortfall. Shelton State Community College has a mechatronics program to train for jobs at the Mercedes-Benz plants in Vance. The program is a combination of classroom and hands-on training, with up to 18 more months of training onsite at Mercedes.

“If you complete the program at Shelton and complete successfully the 18-months program, they’re going to offer positions at Mercedes anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000,” Drummond said. The first 40 students started their Mercedes training in January.

The state is trying to stave off the shortfall with more technical courses and reaching out to junior high and high school students and their parents.

Besides the “Go Build Alabama” campaign for the building trades industry, the JobKeeper Alliance, a new cooperation between organized labor and manufacturing interests, has been created to emphasize skilled trades and technical training, and career tech training beginning in the eighth grade.

George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama, is a JobKeeper Alliance board member.

“In any particular industry sector you want to go, there’s 40 percent to 50 percent of our workforce can and probably will retire soon,” Clark said. “We need to be aware we have a crisis on our hands.”

Clark said parents and school guidance counselors need to be educated so they can advise students of an alternate path to college that may lie in skilled trades and manufacturing jobs.

Stewart Burkhalter, retired president of the Alabama AFL-CIO, started JobKeepers to build grassroots support within the education, manufacturing, and labor communities.

“Everybody is not college material,” Burkhalter said. “We’re trying to educate students and parents to the fact that there is a good living out there for those who don’t go to college, to let parents and students know you can make $100,000 with benefits in the trades.”

JobKeeper executive director Patrick Cagle said JobKeeper partners with the Alabama Department of Education’s Career and Technical Education section to better connect with manufacturing employers and organizations representing skilled workers.

Drummond said efforts are needed to change people’s minds about technical jobs.

“A number of moms and dads and other relatives have a particular view of technical fields and some manufacturing fields,” he said.

The message may be getting heard. Technical skills training attendance in the two-year college system is up from 47,721 in 2006-07 to 77,916 in 2010-11.

Shelton State Community College President Mark Heinrich said the growing retirement gap and industry are driving the effort.

“I think we have had this idea in this country that everybody needs to go in one direction, college, but the fact of the matter is it doesn’t appear to be where the jobs are,” Heinrich said. “I think the educational institutions have had to catch up.”
By Dana Beyerle
Montgomery Bureau Chief
Published: Monday, June 11, 2012

Montgomery County Board of Education approves new tech center

Montgomery TEC has generated a lot of interest from business and community leaders because it has the potential to increase our graduation rate, while also strengthening our local economy by creating a larger skilled workforce. JobKeeper Alliance is in the process of forming a partnership that will connect students at this new school with industry leaders and employers that have a high demand for skilled workers.

A career tech center for Montgomery Public Schools’ students will be a reality this fall.

For months officials have talked about the project and moved swiftly laying its foundation even as it lacked formal board approval. But Tuesday, the Montgomery County Board of Education gave the official OK.

The Montgomery Technical Education Center, or Montgomery TEC, as its been dubbed, will be housed in the now vacant McIntyre Middle School. It is expected to accommodate about 300 students and cost between $3 million and $4 million, which will be paid for using Qualified School Construction Bonds.

The center was first publicly discussed in February, and since then, officials have moved quickly on the project, which has received the support of the local business community.

“Of all the initiatives in Montgomery, this is probably one I’ve heard the most positive comments from,” Thompson said during Tuesday’s school board meeting. “We are not creating something else to create something else. It’s a genuine need.”

When the project came up for a vote most board members immediately volunteered to make a motion to approve the center. Though, board president Charlotte Meadows still had questions.

The board voted 6-0 to approve the center with Meadows abstaining. She later cast the dissenting vote when officials opted to move $3 million of QSCB monies to fund the project.

“I didn’t get my questions answered in a timely manner for a decision this important,” Meadows said after the meeting.

Thompson said she did answer Meadows’ questions, adding that the board has been talking about the project for a while.

As of Tuesday, 243 students have signed up for the program that has been billed as an additional “pathway” for students who have been overlooked in the past.

Thompson previously has said she thinks the new program will help the system’s graduation rate.

Montgomery Advertiser
by: Annie McCallum Bitter
For more information on the new Montgomery TEC high school, please visit the MPS website


Welding competition brings out the best

Students from different schools in Alabama recently participated in a welding competition at Gardendale High School.

The 2012 SkillUSA welding contest was held with 20 students and instructors from 12 districts competing for the state championship. The state championship will eventually lead to a national championship.

The contest took place inside a welding and auto-body facility that stands next to the school. Tables were set with slabs of scrap metal that served different procedures in welding.

Among the procedures were TIG (tungsten inert gas), SMAW (shielded metal arc), GMAW (gas metal arc), flux core and others.

In addition to Garden­dale, other students came from Minor, Shades Valley, Wenonah, Cullman, Elmore, Randolph/Roanoake, Talladega, Walker County Center of Technology, W.A. Lecroy Career Tech Center and Bessemer Center for Technology.

The student from Gardendale was Justin Foshee, who worked with the GMAW procedure. Tim Turner is the welding instructor at Gardendale High.

“A student that takes the program seriously can come in and get certified  and they can work here in the United States,” said Turner on opportunities for students who are interested in welding. “The welding industry is huge.”

The competition at Gardendale was one of several that took place. Alabama SkillsUSA held contests for colleges at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville on April 20, and at United Association Local 572 in Tuscaloosa on April 25.

The judges were Bart Maddox of Bridge, Struct­ural, Ornamental and Rein­forcing Iron Workers Local 92, David Mcmahan of Lincoln Electric, Bradley Baugher of Plumbers and Steam­fitters and Tommy Cox, a welding inspector.

Stevan Cornelison of the Earnest Pruett Center of Technology was announced as the winner.

SkillsUSA is not just for welding, but hosts competitions for a variety of skills, including fire fighting, masonry, advertising design and photography.

The national championship will take place next June in Kentucky.


By Nathan Prewett
North Jefferson News

Alabama’s sweet manufacturing boom

Carpenter Technology broke ground this month on its $518 million plant in Alabama.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — As manufacturing picks up across the United States, Alabama has become an unexpected beneficiary.

The state — best known for agriculture and textiles production — is enjoying the best pickup in industrial manufacturing in five years as U.S. and foreign companies flock there.

The credit goes to the state’s low taxes, top-grade trade schools, a statute that curbs union power, and other incentives spurring many manufacturers to move to or expand in the state, experts said.

“2011 is the best year we’ve had in terms of manufacturing jobs and activity since 2007,” said Greg Canfield, Alabama’s secretary of commerce.

Companies that are set to open new plants in the state include German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp and a Chinese manufacturing giant, Golden Dragon Precise Copper of China.

Meanwhile Hyundai, Honda (HMC), Boeing (BAFortune 500) and truck manufacturer Navistar (NAVFortune 500) are expanding there.

One U.S. company that recently came to the state is Wyomissing, Pa.-based Carpenter Technology Corp. (CRS), which broke ground last week in the state’s Limestone County to build a new 400,000-square-foot plant.

Carpenter Technology is one of 70 domestic manufacturers that announced plans last year to set up a factory in Alabama. They’re expected to create 4,879 jobs and $1.6 billion in capital investment over the next two to three years.

In the same year, an additional 313 manufacturers, already in the state, announced expansion plans that would create another 12,369 new jobs and pour $2.5 billion in capital investment.

“In [the previous] five years, the percentage of our workforce in manufacturing has jumped to 12% from 5%,” said Canfield.

State officials are pleased with the increased activity, but are looking to raise Alabama’s profile even more as a top-notch destination for industrial and high-tech manufacturing.

By Parija Kavilanz @CNNMoney April 11, 2012

View the full story



Governor Bentley signed proclamation today for Alabama Skilled Trades Week

Montgomery, Ala. – Today Governor Robert Bentley signed a proclamation naming April 23-27 “Alabama Skilled Trades Week” in support of his commitment to rebuild Alabama, recruit new businesses to the state and strengthen Alabama’s infrastructure. Each year “Alabama Skilled Trades Week” will be celebrated the last week of April in conjunction with the annual Alabama SkillsUSA Leadership Conference.

Governor Bentley’s proclamation recognizes the importance of designating a week that acts as an annual reminder to young people about the opportunities available to them in skilled trade careers such as welding, electrical engineering, heavy equipment operation, commercial carpentry and more. The proclamation also brings awareness to the growing shortage of skilled tradesmen in commercial and industrial construction, the impact of this shortage on Alabama’s ability to rebuild and grow, and the training opportunities available for students.

“As we continue to rebuild our state after last April’s devastating tornados, I recognize the importance of bringing attention to the need for skilled tradesmen to help us rebuild,” said Governor Bentley. “We will need skilled workers for years to come not only to help us replace what we lost but also to help our state continue to grow. Recruiting more students to skilled trade careers will improve our workforce, help us recruit business and industry and lower our unemployment rate.”

Skilled Trades Week not only aligns with the anniversary of the April 2011 storms but also falls in the week of the upcoming 2012 SkillsUSA Leadership Conference, where over 1,800 students will gather in Birmingham for a career expo and state championships in trade, technical and skilled service programs.

The SkillsUSA Leadership Conference includes a career expo open to the public on Thursday, April 26, from 8 a.m. to noon, at the BJCC East Exhibition Hall.

Tim Alford, executive director for the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute (ACRI), said, “The governor’s proclamation sends a strong message that opportunities are indeed available in the skilled trades, particularly in commercial and industrial construction. We hope that schools, teachers and parents across the state take this opportunity to introduce students to skilled trade careers.”

In 2009, ACRI implemented the Go Build Alabama initiative to educate young people on the value of learning a trade, dispel their misconceptions about the construction industry and inspire them to consider building a career as a skilled construction tradesman. ACRI aims to provide better opportunities for construction tradesmen, more highly skilled employees for construction businesses and enhanced economic development for Alabama and the nation.

For more information, go to