Published in WRAL TechWire – January 15, 2018
Editor’s note: Joe Magno is Executive Director, the North Carolina Center of Innovation Network.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Over the past few months we’ve been hearing more and more about the increasing need for skilled workers from corporations, government, and knowledgeable pundits across the country. The aging out of older workers, changes in workplace demands due to technology creep, and coordinating employer needs with worker skills are all part of the ongoing conversation.
Recent studies in North Carolina and across the US state that about 40 percent of employers complain that they cannot meet their current manpower needs, and even when they can find skilled workers, over 50% of employers still complain about lack of preparation and the need to provide remedial training and education before even skilled workers can be productive…and we haven’t even mentioned substance abuse or lack of motivation to even find work.
In North Carolina, Governor Cooper and our political leaders, regardless of their political ideology, are also becoming more concerned and engaged.
Last October, when Governor Cooper addressed the North Carolina Business Committee for Education he stated: “When I’m talking to CEOs who are considering expanding or relocating jobs to North Carolina, they want to know if we’ve got the educated workforce that can do the jobs they want to create. We want to make sure we have the workforce needed to meet those hiring demands”.
Everyone is being impacted by this issue, whether they are our youth struggling to enter the workforce, mid-career and displaced workers who have lost jobs and must re-adapt, businesses needing skilled and educated human resources, or government leaders concerned about loss of revenue and economic momentum.
The good news is that for decades North Carolina has recognized the issues and the importance of developing a skilled and ready workforce and has been creating and enhancing programs to address this important issue. North Carolina pioneered programs such as BTEC (the Biomanufacturing and Training Center) at NC State, which has helped us lure, and continues to help us to keep biomanufacturing companies growing and expanding here. We also led the way with other programs such as Aviation Triad which is helping us to grow and maintain our position within the aviation industry, and our 58 Community College network is one of the largest in the Country. So, North Carolina is in good shape for now, at least compared to some of the other states.
What do we do?
The question is how do we maintain a leadership position in an increasingly competitive and challenging environment where companies are looking for skilled workers and skilled workers are looking for good paying and satisfying work?
Here are some thoughts:
- Continual Assessment and Improvement are terms loved by all. That said, assessment without meaningful measurement and improvement without positive motivation and rewards are just words. We must continue to inspect what we expect and support those programs that meet the needs of our businesses and our citizens.
- We must continue to develop Demand Driven Programs that are responsive to both companies and workers by listening carefully to businesses as they are planning and responding to changes in their specific economic environment. A focus on programs that understand “soft skills” requirements as well as “hard skills” needs also should be improved.
- And we must continue to Define and Align our Regional Assets to inform regional economic developers and the businesses they want to attract or keep, that the whole state of North Carolina is fully engaged in this issue and planning for the future.
In the end, employers, workers, and government are all at risk when workforce training and education is not a priority. Let’s continue the conversation and keep up the good work.
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