Montgomery Business Journal

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Ed Castile MBJ

Retooling Workforce Development

May 2016

Ed Castile is the Deputy Secretary of Commerce in charge of the workforce development division as well as the director of the Alabama Industrial Development Training program. He was recently interviewed by the Montgomery Business Journal’s David Zaslawsky.

Montgomery Business Journal: What are your responsibilities as the deputy commerce director in charge of the workforce development division? Castile: The Legislature moved training entities into Commerce in the last regular session. As you know, AIDT – Alabama Industrial Development Training – has been in Commerce now going on four years. Last year, three new areas were added to it, and that’s what created what we now refer to as the workforce development division.

What were those three training entities?  The first was the administrative responsibility for the Alabama Workforce Council. The second is the 10 regional workforce councils and there is a staff with that – a group of people who assist those 10 regions. We now have that responsibility as the leader of that. The final group is the federal act that is formally known as the Workforce Investment Act. It’s now the Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act (WIOA).

What is WIOA? It’s a federal program, and it has to do with special populations like low income, disadvantaged economically, laid off. Rapid Response is part of that, where we go in and help individuals who are being laid off by companies. The federal program works with persons and may offset their college tuition or retraining type of events. It could be that they haven’t worked in a number of years and they’re in a program now out there that fits in the Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act. We have responsibility to manage that program. The AWC (Alabama Workforce Council) is more of an administrative role.

What is an administrative role? My role and staff – we are the hired staff of the council. In other words, rather than hire staff, they (Legislature) put them with us so we could be their staff. We carry out their work, their recommendations.

You follow through on the council’s recommendations. Right. For example, they’ve made recommendations for funding through the Legislature. My job is to go meet with the budget chairs and the governor’s finance director and try to get those (funding requests) included in the budget.

Was there staff added to the workforce development division or just consolidation? Consolidation. The workforce council did not have a staff and still doesn’t. We have become that staff. “We” being myself and a handful of people.

How many people? I have six people, including me. That’s again, mostly administration, like setting up a meeting, making sure all the agendas are ready – that kind of thing. My role, I would go and work with the Legislature. They (workforce council) make recommendations to the state superintendent. They make recommendations to the governor. They make recommendations to the chancellor. I work to follow up with those individuals and help them as they respond back to the council.

How many people do you oversee in the workforce development division? When you put AIDT and the 38 or so people that were involved in the WIOA and (those who were) formerly with ADECA (Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs) – that staff has now moved to commerce – when you put all four pieces together, it’s just under 200 staff.

Is there an annual budget for the workforce development division or is it part of the Commerce Department’s overall budget? AIDT has a budget, and included in that are some of the expenses for the regional workforce council staff, and there are four of them. The WIOA staff are federally funded, and there are some General Fund dollars for them and that is part of commerce budget. Of course, AIDT is an independent budget.

How much is the AIDT budget? The 2016 budget is a little over $53 million.

What is the workforce development budget? I think you’re looking at $1.5 million. The federal budget for WIOA is $37 million. It’s all funded separately. There is a chunk of money we’re managing; if you put it all together and include the feds, you’re looking at around $100 million.

The workforce development programs were officially consolidated into one division (on) Oct. 1, 2015. How has the consolidation improved workforce readiness and has it made it more streamlined? We’re actively in the transition. The transition of people is complete. What we’re doing now is assessing all the processes – federal and state – of these programs. As we realign those – we re-engineer them if you will – and refocus, that’s where your efficiencies come in. One of my assignments is to take some pages of the AIDT playbook and use those here. I think that’s why I have this assignment, to try to get these programs that have now been added – to a high level like the AIDT is in efficiency and productivity and developing the workforce. That’s what we’re working on now. It is a little early to say that (we’ve succeeded) because we haven’t. We are in the throes of getting that operation started and done. We’re giving ourselves 10 to 12 months.

Is that 10 to 12 months from last October? No, probably from January. We would like to be (there) by June next year, which is more like 18 months, and the reason we’re looking at that … For the state part of that, we are looking at the end of the year. The federal stuff is a totally complicated thing. Their year runs from July 1 to June 30. We will not be done by this June. For the state stuff, I would love to be through by October, but my guess is it will be more like December. I want to have all the state stuff like I like by December or so. The federal stuff just can’t possibly be done before June of next year.

You talked about bringing these programs up to the level of AIDT. What are the programs lacking and what it will take to improve them? The governor’s vision is to have the locals making decisions about what needs to happen with the workforce in their area. When you look at the regional workforce councils – there’s 10 of those – we’re going to reconfigure the map and reduce that a little and have it more focused in the population centers and industry clusters. They’re currently just … I don’t know how they got divided. It doesn’t focus on the things that drive this state like the business clusters and population centers. We’ve got to redesign to focus on those areas.

After the reconfiguration, how many regional workforce councils will you have? What we’ve been saying is no less than six and no more than nine. My guess is seven or eight.

Are you talking about being more focused on the 11 sectors in the Accelerate Alabama program, such as automotive, aerospace, agriculture, forestry products, chemicals and biosciences? Right. We’re aligning it with that plan. That’s exactly what we’re doing. That’s what started all of this was the accelerate plan. Then the governor created his workforce council, who made recommendations a year or so back to the governor and said, “You need to streamline these things. You need to have better alignment. The (programs) will be more efficient.” And that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re taking those steps that were recommended by the council, but all the focus began to take shape when they created the accelerate plan. In those industry clusters – those 11 sectors – were obviously a part of it. Then our commuting patterns … We know where the industry is. We know where the population is. How do people get there? Are they commuting? What are the patterns? That’s what we’re researching and studying as we redraw the map. We want those councils out there to say, “We have needs in this area because we’re mostly an aviation area or shipbuilding or we’re mostly automotive or we’re mostly aerospace and missile defense or we’re mostly steel making.”

That focus was missing? The drivers haven’t been those areas. I think that we’re a state that’s catching up. We’re growing fast. We get automotive and gosh, look at what happened to automotive in just a short space. We’re the fifth-largest manufacturer in the country. (Alabama is third in the U.S. in vehicle exports.) A lot of people have really good jobs. As we continue to need workforce we’ve got to make sure that we’re smartly and intelligently getting our workforce trained and developed in the areas that they are actually needed, so when we need to fill a vacancy at any of our existing companies or we need to have staff for a new one, then we have what we need. That’s what has been lacking. We’ve been (able) to handle it because we’ve had plenty of people. Now most people have a good job, so we don’t have as many to offer – so what we do have, we’ve got to make sure we’re using and managing wisely.

Are there new workforce development programs coming soon? Our current focus is to make sure what we have is functioning the way they should and efficiently – that we’re maximizing what they are. There are some really good programs. AIDT is certainly a good one and I’m always going to be proud of that.

What are some of the other “really good programs?” This whole thing with WIA, which is now WIOA. That was a big change. The feds changed their own focus and that is helping us focus on business. The new law purports to be more business-friendly, more user-friendly. We in commerce are giving it a business look and business approach to helping those companies instead of a government approach. Any time you say the federal government, the first thing you think of is government. We want to change that, because in commerce, we’re a business agency. The idea is that we want that whole focus to be (a) business focus and less cumbersome and less complicated and user-friendly. The new law gives us that opportunity, and now that we’ve moved into commerce, we’re refocusing on the staff to be responsive to business and listen to that need and drive those millions toward those solutions. They’re good programs. They met needs, but they have sort of been all over the map.

More of a laser focus. A laser focus – targeted vs. not.

What does success look like and what does the Workforce Development Division look like in five years? Success is a workforce system that any citizen, student, parent, trainee, worker can go on a website and this web portal, and in two clicks, get their answer for whatever it is they need. Second to that, a business, an industry, a retailer, a law firm or a bank can go on this website and this portal, and in two clicks, get an answer as to where their resources are for training assistance or for finding their next employee. The third part is that all the training resources and programs can go on there (website) and look at data through a data system that shows at least an aggregate where the workforce is and what the workforce capabilities are. And where we’re lacking because of new business or new technology, then we focus our funding on how to fix that problem. We’re going to drive that program along with a lot of help, but we’re going to be the drivers of that piece.

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