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Texas and Alabama's Tech-Powered Approach to Workforce

Both states are leveraging digital platforms to centralize job prospects, skills data and educational opportunities in the hopes of creating strong talent pipelines to address job access, training and education barriers for residents.

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Texas and Alabama education officials have been working this year to advance four pivotal elements to workforce development success: technology, education, training and access. Now, with the help of new digital tools, their goals are beginning to bear fruit.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), a legislatively established agency designed to serve as a resource and champion for higher education, set an ambitious target through its updated Building a Talent Strong Texas strategic plan: ensure that 60 percent of Texans aged 65 and under attain a degree, certificate or other valuable credential by 2030. To meet this objective, they've embarked on a journey powered by a singular, comprehensive digital platform known as My Texas Future.

The interactive career and program exploration tool helps users connect their skills and career aspirations with coinciding workforce gaps/needs by inputting and pairing their interests with information about the current job market. It also offers actionable data, providing insights for in-demand occupations within a specific region and allowing users to compare salary prospects and graduation program outlooks.

For returning students, My Texas Future facilitates connections and career guidance from institutional advisers at their preferred college or university, with support available through partnerships with 20 institutions that have joined as program collaborators. In future iterations, students will even be able to explore how their current or planned credits will transfer and apply directly to various degree programs across the state, through a new feature on the website called MapMyPath.

“The future of Texas prosperity relies on developing our Texas talent, and My Texas Future is a one-stop advising shop for Texans to explore the changing landscape of high-demand jobs, understand higher education programs and costs, develop plans and advance their careers,” Commissioner of Higher Education Harrison Keller said in a press release earlier this year. “This new tool offers resources to help more Texans earn credentials of value so they can participate in our dynamic economy.”

The agency aims to broaden its collaborations with additional colleges and institutions throughout the state, including expanding to K-12 students in the future.

“There’s been a real gap in trustworthy tools and systems when it comes to advising Texans on their postsecondary and career options. That goes for both K-12 students as well, where we know school counselors and advisers have an unmanageable caseload, to working-age Texans, for whom resources are really minimal,” Mike Eddleman, communications specialist for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said. “With My Texas Future, students receive personalized planning experience. They’re empowered to root their college and career decisions in practical information like real-world earnings and regional job demand, while also making a concrete plan connected to their goals and aspirations.”

Eddleman added that as My Texas Future broadens its scope to include middle and high school students in 2024, they will have the opportunity to embark on early explorations of college and career prospects and access more efficient paths to college admissions.

Alabama has also been working to centralize state workforce training and education components through technological advancements over the past few years. Their mission began back in 2018 when 19 state agencies and a coalition of employers, nonprofit groups, education and training providers, and labor market data platforms combined to help form the Alabama Talent Triad. This serves as a statewide skills-based hiring ecosystem that aims at bridging the communication gaps between employers and job seekers.

The idea of the Alabama Talent Triad originally stemmed from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s goal of adding 500,000 credentialed and workforce-ready workers by 2025.

“Companies are changing the way they do business, what goods and services they provide, and are constantly re-evaluating the type of workforce they employ. With those changes, we are also seeing a shift in the skills needed to compete in today’s workforce,” Ivey said when the idea was originally formed. “To stay competitive in a global economy, Alabama must prepare our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.”

There are three central components of the triad program model that include the Alabama Credential Registry, the Alabama Skills-Based Job Description Generator and Employer Portal, and the Alabama College and Career Exploration Tool.

The Alabama Credential Registry is a digital resource for education and training providers to register a wide spectrum of credentials tied to their education and training from degrees, certificates and licenses to various non-degree credentials. The registry also compiles and showcases the competencies and skills that learners acquire upon completion of these credentials.

The Alabama Skills-Based Job Description Generator and Employer Portal is a tool that offers employers a tailored solution for crafting job descriptions customized to the unique skill profile required for each position. It simplifies the process of transitioning traditional job descriptions into skill-based formats and facilitates the posting of job listings that align with the necessary skills required from potential candidates.

The Alabama College and Career Exploration Tool, meanwhile, will help students and job seekers manage their records of verified skills, credentials and experiences in one easily accessible location — within a digital wallet. This wallet is designed to directly link to skills-based job descriptions offered by employers.

“The key gap that the Talent Triad will close is using skills as a currency for employment. Broadening skill sets increase opportunities for all to land currently available positions, as well as help to seed the market for new and expanding careers as employers continue to create new job titles, technologies and roles,” said Greg DiDonato, vice president of EBSCO Information Services, the lead technology and engagement partner supporting the Alabama Triad Program. “Using skills as a key backbone for opportunity is a foundation that is widely accepted, and the Alabama Talent Triad now operationalizes this foundation.”

The Alabama Talent Triad website officially launched this week after pilots and demonstrations were completed earlier this year.
Ashley Silver is a staff writer for Government Technology. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Montevallo and a graduate degree in public relations from Kent State University. Silver is also a published author with a wide range of experience in editing, communications and public relations.