FOLEY - The Gateway Initiative, now a collaborative five-year effort between the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and Coastal Alabama Business Chamber to increase and improve the workforce in our …
FOLEY - The Gateway Initiative, now a collaborative five-year effort between the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and Coastal Alabama Business Chamber to increase and improve the workforce in our area, has begun to gain statewide attention. The initiative, which kicked off in 2018, was created to help the community’s workforce, education, and local businesses, and to forge strong bonds and partnerships between other chambers and municipalities.
Since its inception, one of the greatest strides from the Gateway Initiative was bringing new apprenticeship programs to our region and getting Tourism and Hospitality careers added to the list of recognized apprenticeships.
The Southwest Alabama Development Council, or SAWDC, operates on a cluster model, or through industry partnerships. For years, there have been partnerships between SAWDC for manufacturing, aviation, maritime, and healthcare apprenticeships in our region. Recently through conversations with South Baldwin Chamber’s Director of Talent Development and Recruitment Ed Bushaw, SAWDC began seeing a need for new apprenticeships to be added.
“Our region has 40+% of the state’s hospitality jobs,” said SAWDC Executive Director Josh Duplantis. “When I met Ed he was very quick to show me the local wage survey, and not only does this represent high demand, but this industry also represents high wage jobs for our residents that we need to drive into these jobs, just like we do with all the others.”
After compiling data and making a case to SAWDC’s Board of Directors, hospitality has officially been recognized as the fifth industry partnership. Duplantis said he saw the apprenticeship program as the cornerstone of the partnership, citing it was very important to the future of Alabama.
“Apprenticeships are working across regions, and I believe that the Gateway Initiative is the model in the state of Alabama,” he said. “You’ve got multiple businesses, multiple occupations, and are starting with young people at a young age to get them onto a pathway leading to a family sustaining wage and a good career in hospitality, and that’s something really special to see.”
Just coming into existence during September, the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship is seeking to expand the utilization of registered apprenticeships to meet the needs of workforce. Director Josh Laney said while 90% of apprenticeships in Alabama are currently in construction and manufacturing, hospitality and tourism management is growing quickly.
“The Gateway Initiative serves as an example that other parts of the state can replicate, and I tell you that other parts of the state are waiting to replicate what you’re doing here,” he said. “They’re already seeing your success and they’re looking to model it … We have 11 new employers who have already signed on, so something like this can grow quickly. We don’t see this level of interest and this level of growth in those industries where we have been traditionally doing apprenticeships, we see it in the new and innovative ones.”
The Gateway Initiative is far from over, with many more plans and ideas to be rolled out over the next few years. If you’re interested in learning more, visit both websites for South Baldwin Chamber and Coastal Alabama Business Chamber: www.southbaldwinchamber.com/ and www.mygulfcoastchamber.com.