A Look at Workforce Needs Now and in the Future

The Business View – December 2015/January 2016

Emily McGrath_2014_lowAs Mobile’s job recruitment efforts continue to be successful, questions are often raised about the availability of a skilled workforce. The Mobile Area Chamber’s Director of Education and Workforce Development Emily McGrath offers a look at the current situation, future predictions and the resources available to keep the Mobile area competitive in the economic development arena.



Q: What are the top jobs in the area, as far as workforce readiness?

A: Taking a look at the top employers in our community will provide a good idea of the top jobs in Mobile. Aerospace companies, for example, employ more than 3,500 people in the Mobile area, including avionics mechanics and engineers. Maritime companies employ around 6,000, including welders, electricians and pipefitters. Healthcare is another key employer in our community, employing more than 21,000 people. When looking at the high demand occupations over the next 10 years, healthcare-related jobs make up the majority of the list, ranging from medical assistants to surgeons. Jobs related to the chemical, information technology (IT) and steel manufacturing industries also have predicted openings in the area.


Q: What are the top workforce development needs locally?

A: Mobile has a diverse economy, and with that comes a diverse set of needs. Openings for technical jobs in our manufacturing industries and creative jobs in our IT sector are both readily available. While we do promote skills training for immediate employment, we also need to focus on those “soft skills” that ensure growth for both the employee and the company. Many companies identify those soft skills as being able to perform one set of skills and communicate clearly with others, think critically and creatively about problems, and even just show up to work on time on a daily basis. Combining training and innovation in our workforce development strategy ensures employees are ready to work today and can adapt and remain ready to work in the future.


Q: What are the top jobs in the area, as far as workforce readiness?

A: Mobile, like many other areas across the country, is working hard to fill the manufacturing skills gap. As most of Mobile’s top employers are in industries requiring skills based jobs, welders, pipefitters, machinists, mechanics, etc., are always in demand. For example, Austal currently has job openings listed in the areas of fabrication, pipefitting and welding, and engineering. Where there is high growth in our industry sectors, there will be high demand.


Q: If there are shortages, are there plans to rectify the issues involved with it?

A: Keeping the communication lines open between education and industry is key to ensuring a strong workforce pipeline. The Mobile County Public School System continues to play a role linking industry and education through its Signature Academy programs that engage students with possible careers in Mobile through industry-guided curriculum and hands-on experiences. Educational entities like the public school system and our local community colleges ensure our future workforce is strong in what our industry needs. There are also plenty of programs available to help address current workforce needs, like AIDT, the state’s workforce training program that offers comprehensive training at no cost to qualifying companies.


Southwest Alabama’s federal designation as a Manufacturing Community is also making strides in strengthening our current workforce. Advancing Southwest Alabama provides preferential scoring on grant applications to 11 participating federal agencies that bolster workforce programs such as apprenticeships and on-the-job training, allowing employers to train to meet their specific needs.



Editor’s note: McGrath originally responded to this list of questions from Lagniappe. As of press time, a story hadn’t yet been published.


Click here to read The Business View – December 2015/January 2016