Alabama Deputy Director of Commerce and Workforce Development Ed Castile praised the WeeCats program at the Enterprise Early Education Center during his remarks at the Rethink Career and Technical Education event held at Enterprise State Community College on Aug. 22.
“When you’re in Enterprise, Alabama you have to recognize something about WeeCats,” Castile said. “Y’all, there is a program in this city that has three and four year olds running a business. They’re training them how to run a business and they’re doing it. It’s the most incredible thing that I think I’ve seen. You talk about starting early, that’s early, but they’re doing it.”
Castile then addressed the crowd and discussed the newly created Alabama Office of Apprenticeship.
“We have—in the 2016 legislature when the (apprenticeship) tax credit was passed—for us to formalize in the (Alabama) Department of Commerce an organized effort to help companies register their companies and their trainees that they would like to into some type of registered apprenticeship program,” Castile said. “In the 2019 legislature, it was actually updated. In that legislature we increased the tax credit for sure, but we also are taking the next step in our apprenticeship development and that is adding a state apprenticeship agency in Alabama.”
Castile said Alabama will be the first state in about 20 years to create this office and will become the 26th state in the country to have a state apprenticeship office.
He said the office allows the Alabama Department of Commerce to be the certifying agency for registered apprenticeships and industry-recognized apprenticeships instead of the U.S. Department of Labor.
He said that the legislation also added an incentive for hiring apprentices under the age of 18, which helps the department reach students in the K-12 and two-year college systems.
Castile said that apprenticeships are another way Alabama can provide skilled labor for the businesses around the state while also providing a pipeline for students to go into the workforce.
“We are putting full-court press on talking to our businesses to get their skilled labor to the level they need it to be because just about everybody that wants to work in Alabama is,” Castile said. “There’s still several thousand people (that want to work) and there’s a lot of people that need to be working. And there’s a lot of people in the K-12 system right now that we need to get over the threshold and into the workforce and not let them hit the couch. And so there’s lots of ways to do that and apprenticeship is just one of them.”