State Role in Facilitating the Transition to a Skills-Based Economy
State governments have a critical responsibility in facilitating the transition of public infrastructure, built on advanced technology, to drive the economy by supporting the opportunity and upskilling of its citizens as well as supporting diverse industry sectors and employers. With authority and influence over the credentialing ecosystem, as well as ability to coordinate across agencies and with the private sector, state governments are well-positioned to drive education and workforce transformation at scale and secure sustainability through policy.
In Alabama, the Talent Triad leverages the power of state and local governments, subject matter experts, leading technologists, and the private sector to create a talent marketplace that will:
Create new opportunities for learners and workers to own their learning and employment data and transact their skills as a currency in the labor market, through verification of achieved skills, credentials, and experiences.
Support employers in identifying and connecting with new candidates, while also identifying the upcoming talent pipelines.
Increase postsecondary attainment and labor force participation for Alabamians, thereby helping to meet state goals and to create a more resilient economy.
To do this, Alabama established governance structures with well-defined roles and responsibilities, and has codified the Talent Triad, and the competency and credential policies that underlie it, in policy.
States must be involved in the development, design, implementation, and interoperability of talent marketplaces that can serve the public by facilitating the connection between employers, education and training providers, and citizens. Governments are the only entity with the authority and influence to support policy and practice changes that can usher in a skills-based economy.
States that design open systems with the priorities and goals of students and job-seekers, employers, institutions of higher education and workforce training providers will drive a stronger economy for all. This requires that state governance must become more nuanced. This is not yet another data system or program, funded under a specific agency, where government is using data purely for government needs. The work being described in this paper is about creating a shared governance and technology infrastructure structure that allows data to be interoperable and publishes data via open, linked data standards across all agencies and the private sector, allowing for individuals to benefit.
Alabama’s state leadership has centered on the following key areas.
Creating Opportunity for Every Alabamian
Alabama has a shared vision that enables every Alabamian to pursue opportunity through:
Creating population level solutions that remove barriers for individuals traditionally left out of the economy, provide differentiated and personalized upskilling pathways, and supports all employer verticals.
Create a higher return on investment of public and private dollars that help to innovate existing programs and can serve diverse regions and workforce needs across the state.
Adopting state-level goals that address both postsecondary attainment and employment outcomes, connecting credential completion to workforce needs in the state.
Using every data resource available to identify current and future in-demand occupations at regional and statewide levels.
Aligning high-quality credentials to those in-demand occupations.
Organizing skills and competency data to ensure alignment between academic programs and employment opportunities.
Alabama has enshrined policies needed to foster a skills-based economy. The Alabama Committee on Credentialing and Career Pathways (ACCCP) is composed of 16 sectoral partnerships, representing each industry sector, which was codified by Act 2019-506. The ACCCP is tasked with a two-fold mission: (1) identifying Alabama’s regional and statewide in-demand occupations and (2) developing competency models, career pathways, and credentials of value linked to those in-demand occupations. The ACCCP uses a process called the five-star rubric to create the list of in-demand occupations.
The shared governance role of the ACCCP brings the vision for talent to life and ensures that all resources being allocated across the state are aligned and driving for a common purpose, while also serving the unique needs of every Alabamian and employer.
Assuring the Quality Non-Degree Credentials
The ACCCP works in partnership with the Alabama Committee on Credential Quality and Transparency (ACCQT), created by Act 2023-365, which uses the ACCCP’s ten-point quality assurance criteria process to develop the annual compendium of valuable credentials that are aligned to in-demand occupations. Credentials of value are also linked to one or more specific competencies for which the credential denotes mastery using the Alabama Occupational Ontology and the Alabama Talent Triad. Connecting the credentials and competencies that compose the “DNA” of in-demand jobs allows for the development of dynamic career pathways that are based on the connection between skills across jobs, rather than static career pathways that assume a linear progression of jobs. This strategy also allows for unbundling and modularizing traditional degrees and could lead to a greater uptake of credit for prior learning.
To assure residents have access to high-quality non-degree credentials and to increase student and employer understanding of which programs are creating positive outcomes, states prioritize:
Developing standardized definitions for different types of non-degree credentials.
Understanding and assessing the quality of non-degree credentials.
Ensuring that non-degree credentials are accepted and embedded for college credit.
Using state resources to support access to high-quality credentials, restricting access to non-degree credentials that do not meet quality standards.
States have taken a role in “registering” credentials, including non-degree credentials and degrees. Credential registries are databases of credential information, including providers, types of credentials, learning and employment outcomes, using a common language that enables interoperability and improved end user experience. While Credential Engine is the largest national credential registry, Credential Engine frequently connects to state-level registries that meet states’ unique need to assure the quality of credentials offered in the state.
States that build and connect to credential registries are:
Creating improved transparency for stakeholders, including students, employers, and policymakers, to understand the complex credential marketplace in a state.
Exercising quality assurance, enabling only credentials that meet quality standards to be included in the registry and connected to workforce programming.
Driving Strategic Value for Alabamians
State efforts to validate quality credentials and register those credentials are important activities but to create real value for stakeholders, states can then use these core definitions of quality to drive funding, decision-making, marketing, and economic growth to create true outcomes for citizens and employers.
States that are driving strategic value are:
Recognizing how improved transparency and defined quality standards can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of state investments in upskilling and reskilling.
Leveraging open, linked-data to create opportunities for marketing and putting information directly into citizens hands and technology the education-to-employment pathways that have real return.
Making all learning count by creating consistent standards and applications for how learning gained outside of the classroom can apply toward high-quality credentials.
Assuring learning is aligned to labor market demand across the state’s colleges and universities.
Alabama adopted early governance structures that enabled it to drive practical and strategic outcomes, leading to the creation of the state’s talent marketplace, the Talent Triad.
Alabama’s Talent Triad is a statewide, multi-agency initiative that leverages public and philanthropic investments and is supported by private technology and non-profit expertise. Spearheaded from the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation (GOEWT), the Talent Triad uses a unique governing structure and policy environment to achieve its goals.
Under leadership of the GOEWT, Alabama’s education and workforce goals are two-fold:
Add 500,000 credentialed Alabamians to the potential workforce by 2025 through Success Plus postsecondary education attainment goal.
Surpass the national labor force participation rate by 2025 by braiding resources to help Alabamians overcome benefits cliffs and barriers to entering education or the workforce.
These goals, which directly connect postsecondary credential attainment to workforce outcomes in Alabama, create the underpinning of the comprehensive and integrated work of the Talent Triad. Alabama’s adoption of a goal that concretely connects postsecondary attainment to workforce outcomes is unique, but imperative for balancing the supply and demand for skills in Alabama’s economy and enabling the effective use of public dollars.
The GOEWT plays an integral role in advancing the goals of the Talent Triad, ultimately balancing the priorities of the Governor with those of other stakeholders, including employers, students, job seekers and education providers. The GOEWT addresses the policy, process, convening, and vision-development behind the Talent Triad.
The Talent Triad is the only learning and employment record effort spearheaded from a Governor’s Office, which Alabama thinks is important for creating the leverage for this population level solution possible. Anything below a state level, a city or region for example, may not have the numbers of people, institutions, and employers needed to power a marketplace approach. And logistically, centering LER work within a Governor’s Office creates the kind of authority structure that can move agency staff.
Equally important as the locus of control in a position of authority is having the right point person: one person or a small team who can lead the work over years and provide continuity, and who have expertise on how to coordinate all the actors across the state along with multiple funding sources.
The Talent Triad also benefits from strong advocacy within the legislature, particularly from budget and policy chairs in the House and Senate. Furthermore, Alabama’s business community is supportive of the Talent Triad. Alabama Workforce Council Chairman Tim McCartney commented, “They are responsive to the business community, and they understand that the state has a labor shortage that is precipitated by low postsecondary attainment and low labor force participation. These two things are linked, and you can’t move one without the other.”
The broader governance structure that enables the Talent Triad emerged in 2019 when Governor Ivey signed Act 2019-506 into law. This Act created the Alabama Committee on Credentialing and Career Pathways (ACCCP). The ACCCP is a public/private entity tasked with two primary missions:
Identifying Alabama’s regional and statewide in-demand occupations.
Developing competency models, career pathways, and credentials of value linked to those in-demand occupations using labor market information.
The Committee is co- chaired by the Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System and the State Superintendent of Education, and members include the Governor, the Chair of the Alabama Workforce Council, the State Secretary of Labor, and one gubernatorial appointee from each of seven workforce regions, among others. The ACCCP also engages subject matter experts, from education and training providers who are tasked with translating employer demand, into bespoke training programs that articulate to time- and credit-based degrees.
Rather than focusing on single industries, single occupations or single credentials, the Talent Triad and the governance structure behind it seek comprehensive solutions, recognizing that systemic change will not happen without movement on all sides of the talent marketplace. Institutions are incentivized to adopt competency- based education approaches; employers are supported to engage in skills-based hiring; and learners are proactively encouraged to develop and utilize their digital wallets. Unless these things happen in tandem, the effort will fall flat.
The state convenes 16 Technical Advisory Committees, working across all industries in Alabama. Importantly, these Committees are highly focused on business needs, while postsecondary institutions and education providers are in a reactive role. The Committees also engage with HR and people leaders within companies who are experts in developing job descriptions and understanding detailed talent acquisition needs and strategies.
To identify in-demand occupations, the ACCCP uses a “five-star rubric” that measures:
Occupational wages must be at least 70% of the mean regional wage.
Occupation belongs within a career cluster that is ranked in the top 8 for the annual regional Success Plus Attainment goal.
Shows positive annual growth and positive projected growth over a decade.
On the regional top 40 in-demand jobs list or is at least in the 75th percentile of average regional wage.
Requires a postsecondary degree, certificate, or credential for initial employment.
Once priority occupations are identified, the ACCCP works to identify and unpack the credentials required for the role. This is a multi-stage process that seeks to impose quality measures upon the credential environment and to link credentials more intentionally to occupations.
The result of this process is the Alabama Compendium of Valuable Credentials. The credentials that appear on this list are aligned to regional and statewide in-demand career pathways. These credentials of value are also prioritized in public funding. This process was recently codified through the passage of Act 2023- 365. Representative Terri Collins sponsored the bill in the House, with Senator Donnie Chesteen supporting in the Senate. The bill passed unanimously through both houses. Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill into law on June 1, 2023.
Actors working to advance applications should prioritize engaging their Governor’s Office, tapping into the statewide authority and leadership needed to work across many state agencies, education providers and the private sector. Leveraging leadership in this way can also create long-term sustainability, building efforts into state’s future vision.
While legislation will be difficult to move in the short term, considering how efforts to identify in-demand occupations and elevate the priorities of industries in ways that are replicable, effective, and meaningful to employer partners is key. In Alabama, engagement by business representatives who are knowledgeable and empowered has been a significant lever for change.
Alabama cautions states against “putting the cart before the horse,” buying into technology solutions and vendor products before deeply considering the state’s interests and environment. They encourage the state to develop policies and systems in advance of making decisions about technology.
The state of Alabama is interested in learning about other effective governance structures that can create buy-in among stakeholders and lend continuity to learning and employment record initiatives.
We encourage other states to share their stories, and to reach out for more information. The Talent Triad is a customizable platform that can help states advance their own unique goals, supported by a national movement and regional consensus.
Building a Talent Marketplace—A Playbook for States
Alabama’s Talent Triad is a unique system, bringing together often disparate efforts to create value and impact for the state’s workforce and economy. Driven by Alabama’s government and its goals of adding 500,000 additional credentialed workers to the state’s economy and surpassing the national labor force participation rate by 2025, the Talent Triad represents a comprehensive skills-based talent marketplace that connects job-seekers, employers and education providers.
There have been several states taking the first step to transform their economy to a currency of skills by implementing skills-based hiring approaches for state employees. This is a positive step toward alleviating government hiring and recruiting challenges. But we know this is not enough to result in economic mobility and prosperity across the state, and more action will be needed to create skills-based talent marketplaces that connect all workers, career opportunities, and learning experiences to power economic growth and the mobility of its citizens.
Alabama state leaders understood this problem deeply and used evidence to drive towards the creation of the Alabama Talent Triad, which is the first skills-based talent marketplace facilitated by a state in the US. To share about this important effort, partners have created The Alabama Talent Playbook, which provides details for how the state is building a skills-based economy and allows other state leaders to learn how Alabama’s Talent Triad has emerged as the most promising transformational talent marketplace in the country.
Alabama’s Talent Marketplace: Technology and Data Tools for the People of Alabama
The Talent Triad is a public-private partnership, sponsored by Governor Ivey’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation and AlabamaWorks! to easily provide access to information about jobs, credentials, and job seekers in an online talent marketplace. Unlike many other efforts where states are deploying technology to gather and connect workforce and education data for state-level research and reporting, the Talent Triad was not built to serve the state.
The Talent Triad was designed to serve citizen stakeholders and facilitate the success of:
Job-seekers and working learners who wish to apply their skills in a new or advancing role
Employers who seek to find talented Alabamians to fill in-demand jobs
Education providers working to train and build Alabama’s talented workforce
While the state will benefit from the insights gained from stakeholders using the Talent Triad and from the impacts on labor force participation and employment, the state is not the primary beneficiary. Instead, Alabama is making a big bet, leveraging public data and infrastructure, philanthropic support, subject-matter expertise, and private sector know-how to create a truly unique talent marketplace to serve its people.
The Alabama Talent Triad engages 19 state agencies in a common vision and collective work to build an ecosystem where technology and data can support the growth of skills-based hiring and competency- based education in order to increase credential completion and labor force participation.
The Talent Triad is composed of three segments, each of which creates value:
The Alabama Credential Registry is an online resource that enables Alabama education and training providers to register the credentials they issue, including certificates, licenses, degrees and non-degree credentials, creating a real-time outlook for the full array of credentials available to learners in the state. Unlike other credential registries, Alabama’s goes a step further to describe the competencies that learners gain in completing these credentials. That work is organized through the state’s Competency Ontology, and results in what the state calls the “DNA” for in-demand jobs--the skills and knowledge that drive in-demand jobs.
The Alabama Skills-Based Job Description Generator and Employer Portal allows employers to create customized job descriptions based on the skills “DNA” of the jobs in their firms. Employers can use the Skills-Based Job Description Generator to more easily transition their existing descriptions into skills- based job descriptions, and to post jobs so they can be matched with potential employees.
The Alabama College and Career Exploration Tool, or ACCET, is Alabama’s version of the Learning
and Employment Record (LER) and allows students and job seekers to own, collect, and manage their records of verified skills, credentials, and experiences in a digital wallet to easily share and link directly to skills-based job descriptions generated by employers. Job-seekers can tailor their LER to specific roles and fields, and are in full control of their own credential and competency data.
Because all aspects of the Talent Triad use the same competency-based “DNA”, job seekers and employers can be “matched” based on the alignment of skills. The LER is valued by employers because it eliminates cumbersome background checks to verify credentials and offers discrete information about what a job candidate actually knows and is able to do on the job. Both saving time and money for on-boarding new employees, and providing Alabamians a more direct path to careers. If the job seeker is not qualified for a job, they will receive learning recommendations to an Alabama education or training provider to support their skill and credential development to qualify.
Call To Action
The Alabama Talent Triad team will continue to scale while also exploring new integrations and ways for the data to be interoperable to the ways job seekers and employers seek to create economic growth and individual mobility.
We invite you to learn with us. We will release multiple chapters through the Alabama State Playbook, designed specifically to share lessons learned and emerging best practices. The Playbook is specifically designed to support state policy and implementation teams as they address talent in their own states. Papers will be posted periodically at www.talentplaybook.com, as well as through social media and other venues.
We invite you to connect with the Alabama Talent Triad team to learn and to explore how this work can support transformation in other states.
Research and Resources
Credential Engine prepared a brief, Creating Equitable Futures for All Learners Through Credential Transparency, that addresses the state policy implications and action steps for advancing credential transparency.
National Skills Coalition publications, focused on quality assurance, credential transparency, and quality of non-degree credentials, highlight the state role in driving an equitable skills-based economy.
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices is leading the Skills-Driven State Community of Practice, designed to help Governors’ offices and state leaders identify and elevate effective practices and design elements for learning and employment records.
Please visit www.talentplaybook.org for forthcoming briefs and resources charting the work of the Alabama Talent Triad.