By: Dr. Josh Duplantis

We often hear that the unemployment rate has reached pre-pandemic levels and that statement is mostly true. You are only considered unemployed if actively seeking work and according to the department of Labor, once 26 weeks pass, a job seeker gets put into the classification of "discouraged worker". Even with the low unemployment numbers, our employment situation, as we all know is different. Why do we see help wanted signs on literally every business that we pass by. Peak labor force for Alabama Workforce Region 07 hit a high in 2019 peaking at 53.4%. In March of 2021 regional participation was at 52.23%. Now, a little over 1% doesn't seem like a big number. With a regional labor force of 335,021 people, that's a significant loss of people participating in work. Combine that with the job growth and post pandemic recovering and the region is short several thousand workforce participants necessary to meet our job demand. Above is a chart of each county in region 7, it's participation in 2019 (pre pandemic) and its participation now (March 2021). 
The same barriers exist now as they did pre-pandemic. Childcare, transportation, substance abuse, and job skills continue to be the four most significant barriers to workforce entry. 


Many of Gateway’s initiatives are built around developing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that youth need to obtain and participate in productive work. Our activities in this area work to bring the private and public sector together to ensure that education improves both the workforce readiness and technical skills necessary for youth to build a solid foundation and an understanding of career pathing options available right here in Baldwin County.

The health and safety of everyone who lives, works, and visits our community is a top concern as restrictions are lifted and Baldwin County resumes its role as Gateway to the Gulf for so many Alabamians, southeasterners, and guests from around the world. Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism and the Gateway Initiative have partnered to present our industry partners and key stakeholders with a set of resources to help employers decide how they can encourage workforce vaccinations.

The Gateway Initiative and Coastal Alabama Community College collaborative recently organized a workshop for guidance counselors from all Baldwin County schools to provide innovative modes of work-based learning. Presentations gave special emphasis on how high school students can earn stackable credentials in the areas of registered apprenticeship and technical education dual enrollment.

Friday, March 5, 2021 – Foley, Alabama: The Gateway Initiative, a workforce and entrepreneurial development initiative driven by the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber, welcomes a new team member, Tyler Morgan Brunson, as Program Coordinator for the Gateway Initiative.