The first post in this CED blog series on education and workforce development in North Carolina elaborated on Work Ready Communities. Part II examines opportunities for workforce development within the North Carolina Community College System.
Improving pathways to higher education is a key component in workforce development. Businesses desire competent workers with skills and training that are able to meet workforce demands. Localities are in a unique position to facilitate the development of human capital through the support of policies and programs. As SOG Professor Jonathan Morgan points out, “Communities and regions must operate successfully on each side of the human capital equation by both stimulating the demand for skilled workers and ensuring that the supply of workers is sufficient to meet that demand. The goal is to create lots of good jobs and have great workers to fill them.”
If you build the talent, the industry might pursue. In some cases, the talent development pipeline is not only mutually beneficial, but it is uniquely coordinated. For example, Sandhills Community College in Moore County, North Carolina has an innovative program geared toward the development of workers for Situs, a commercial real estate analysis company. In this arrangement, the institution “has provided training specifically addressing the needs of the local businesses which as assisted them with growing and creating new employment opportunities for the area.” Essentially, the community college and the local business collaborate on the development of a curriculum that trains workers for specific jobs; in the case of Situs, the partnership results in high performing and well trained real estate and fianancial analysts that are locally groomed. This approach is very much intentional in that it is made possible by the North Carolina Community College Customized Training Program. The objective of the Training Program is to supplement three aspects of a partner company’s well-being by highlighting opportunities for job growth, making investments in technology, and enhancing productivity of the available workforce.
In a recent interview, Anne Bacon, Director of Strategic Innovations for the NC Community College System, explained the talent development pipeline as a “whole continuum,” especially as the programs have maintained a focus on “workplace” and “work-based” learning. Practical, hand-on experience is an invaluable part of this process, which has resonated with some institutions in the creation of public-private partnerships. McDowell Technical Community College and community stakeholders saw the trajectory of their workforce development needs and took initiative with Partnering for Progress– the creation of the McDowell County Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center, a 50,000 square foot former manufacturing facility renovated, updated, and dedicated to giving students hands-on professional development and training, employing prospective students within the partner local businesses, and retaining the talent within the area. The project involved the coordination of local governments, educational institutions, grand funding partners, regional commissions, workforce development agencies, and local businesses to fund and implement the $6.9 million project.
The NC Community College System began a campaign called Align4NCWorks in 2015 with the purpose of promoting “a more responsive and aligned workforce development system by strengthening partnerships among community colleges, business/industry, workforce development boards, public schools and economic development.” The campaign highlights current workforce and economic development efforts throughout the State of North Carolina and elaborates on the overarching goal of ensuring that North Carolina has the best workforce in the nation. The program also aligns with the North Carolina Chamber’s strategic plan goals for workforce development: “North Carolina will be a global leader in the number of students leaving its community college system with a job-ready credential that can lead to become a successful employee or employer in a global economy and provide better skills, better jobs, better pay and continued educational attainment.” The tide is turning for workforce capacity in North Carolina. Through intentional and strategic investments in the workforce development pipeline by institutions, local governments, and private industry the prospects of continued successes are hopeful.
Additional information and examples of North Carolina Community College workforce development initiatives can be found at http://www.nccommunitycolleges.edu/align4ncworks/innovations.
Ricky Ruvio is a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student pursing a Master’s in Public Administration. He is currently a Community Revitalization Fellow with the Development Finance Initiative.