“Putting people first” is more than Mayor Woodfin’s campaign slogan; it’s a strategy to govern and a mission for economic development focused on human capital. At the Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity (IEO), we are operationalizing that strategy and pursuing that mission by designing and implementing policies that empower our citizens to create their own economic futures, grow their companies, and find their purpose.
In Birmingham–as in the rest of the country–workforce efforts between educators and employers are not optimally aligned. Funding from government agencies and philanthropy is valuable, but we often fail to measure the success of those investments against clear benchmarks for skill and credential attainment aligned with regional employment demands.
When just one in five workers in the Birmingham region is considered high-skill, the quality of life of our workers and their families is at the mercy of automation and globalization. When four in ten of our workers have left the labor market altogether, we have failed our people. When parents are not empowered to talk about career decisions with their students, we are not setting families up for success.
The bottom line? We are not getting the results we want, nor the results that our citizens deserve. In order to get better results, we need better data. That is what the Building (it) Together report has given us as policymakers, principals, and parents.
The report makes it clear that the status quo is an unsustainable course. Anchored in the findings of this report, the IEO is setting into motion the following actions:
- Putting People First Funds. The Putting People First Fund is a “human capital” strategy that invests in talent cultivation, retention, and recruitment. This is a modern, talent-driven incentive strategy. We will use the data defined in this report to incentivize hiring talent where demand exceeds supply, and we will encourage investing in cultivating the local talent of folks in our neighborhoods, including the Innovate Birmingham Workforce program.
- Deputy Director for Talent Development. We are hiring for the individual that will be the primary architect of our talent development strategy in this City. Although historically economic development and talent development have been decoupled, we are changing our approach. Interested? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Data dashboards. In the next year, our team will lead on developing a dashboard for talent development so that we can be transparent about our strengths and weaknesses.
- Fred Shuttlesworth Promise Scholarship. We are investing in our City’s future by investing in our youth, providing them scholarships to post-secondary education aligned for high-demand, high-wage jobs.
At the IEO, we wake up every day and think about how to facilitate an inclusive economy in Birmingham, and this data is and will continue to be the cornerstone of our strategy. I urge you to join us: read this report, examine the systems and processes it calls attention to, and think hard about how your company or your institution can be a part of the solution.
By Dr. Josh Carpenter, Director of the City of Birmingham’s Office of Innovation and Economic Opportunity