The skills gap – the growing gap between the adaptable, “soft” skill sets modern job creators need and the real-life skill sets of many new job seekers – continues to be the number one concern impacting NC Chamber members across all industries. It means that many job creators are struggling to grow their businesses not because they do not have jobs to fill, but because they do not have access to the right talent. To spread awareness around the various ways North Carolina’s business and education communities are working together to shrink our skills gap, the NC Chamber developed a special insert, Closing the Skills Gap: North Carolina Can’t Afford to Wait, which ran recently in the Charlotte, Triad and Triangle Business Journals.
We encourage you to click the link above and read through the various articles. From supporting our state’s high academic standards, to employer-driven internship and apprenticeship initiatives, to strengthening alignment between education and workforce goals in local communities through the NCWorks Certified Work Ready Communities Program, it should become evident pretty quickly that our state’s job creators and education experts are not sitting still and waiting for someone else to come up with the strategic solutions to our skills gap challenge.
We are especially excited to share this insert with you since the NC Chamber and a number of our members are helping to spearhead many of these initiatives. The NC Chamber Foundation serves as the final certifying body for the NCWorks Certified Work Ready Communities program, for example, which also includes support from the NC Department of Commerce, the Office of the Governor and the state’s Community College System. Because so many of our state’s local communities have unique workforce considerations, this program allows each county to customize a framework for aligning local education and workforce goals. By achieving those goals, each county can then benefit from its official certification as a Work Ready Community, demonstrating to businesses that they are ready to support new growth from day one. So far, 19 North Carolina counties have achieved this important certification, while nearly 1,700 employers have signed on as supporters and 130,000 National Career Readiness Certificates have been awarded throughout the state.
The insert also describes the many ways our members and other North Carolina job creators are doing their part to provide today’s students with positive exposure to the modern workforce – a key for closing our skills gap. Among the programs profiled in the insert are the Biogen Community Lab (which provides students with hands-on experience in an authentic laboratory setting), Backpacks to Briefcases (a collaboration between Duke Energy and NC State University that gets unemployed or underemployed recent graduates connected with paid internships), the Charlotte-based Apprenticeship 2000 (one of a number of statewide employer-driven apprenticeship programs that covers participants’ education costs and provides them a guaranteed path to a manufacturing career), and the Andrews Aviation Academy Early College Program (designed to create a pipeline of new workers for the Triad’s booming aerospace industry).
It was not long ago that we here at the NC Chamber were drawing awareness around another daunting challenge facing North Carolina – the transportation funding crisis – by explaining that we simply could not afford to wait. What happened? In 2015, North Carolina’s leaders stepped up and passed the first long-term transportation funding measures for the state since the 1980’s. We believe we have the best intellectual and motivational capital in the world right here in North Carolina. Let’s put it to good use; let’s work together to make our skills gap history.
Contact Meaghan Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our involvement with the NCWorks Certified Work Ready Community program. To find out more about how the NC Chamber Foundation is working to provide forward-thinking solutions to the skills gap, and to get engaged, contact Cassi Zumbiel at email@example.com.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber