Alabama has made significant economic progress in recent decades, attracting car manufacturers and new industrial development. In the past 10 years alone, the state's gross domestic product increased by an inflation-adjusted 30 percent.
Alabama now has an opportunity to build on its considerable assets to address some systemic challenges in education, health care, and workforce development to be competitive in a global economy.
A key challenge for Alabama's leaders is demonstrating just how improving education and health care will improve and sustain the economic vitality of the state. As the state succeeds in economic development and industrial recruitment, it will need workers ready, willing and able to do the new jobs that require higher skills in reading and math.
Efforts are already afoot to encourage students at a very young age to set ambitious, realistic educational goals. Given that Alabama suffers from a dropout rate above the national average, new methods and strategies are needed to engage students in preparing for their future as productive and employed citizens. Focusing on the school-to-work transition will strengthen the economic development forecast for the state.
Access to better health care should further reinforce the potential success of the school-to-work transition. Research shows that there is a positive return on investment in disease prevention, wellness, and early intervention programs to deal with, for example, teen pregnancy....
The remainder of this op-ed can be found at montgomeryadvertiser.com.
Melissa Flournoy is director of the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute.
This commentary originally appeared in Montgomery Advertiser on July 14, 2009. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.