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The NC Influencer Series: Economy

Along with several NC Chamber members, NC Chamber President & CEO Lew Ebert is participating in the North Carolina Influencer Series, presented by The Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer and the Durham Herald-Sun. Throughout the year, leaders from across the state will answer questions on a variety of topics that matter most to North Carolinians.

Q: What is the biggest economic issue facing North Carolina What do you think needs to be done to address the issue?

Job creators continually point to the skills gap as the greatest challenge facing North Carolina’s competitive economy. If there aren’t skilled workers to fill open jobs, North Carolina can forget about attracting and retaining investment in the state because ultimately business will have to follow the talent.

Boosting vocational, career, and technical education is a must if our state is to close the skills gap but we can’t stop there. We must also align the goals of our education systems with the needs of the state’s workforce, increase access to early childhood education, improve early literacy proficiencies, maintain high academic standards and ensure every North Carolina student receives the best possible education. There isn’t one magic bullet that will solve North Carolina’s workforce development challenges, instead our state’s education systems, business community, policy makers and community leaders will have to work as a collective to advance solutions at every stage of a student’s education to better prepare tomorrow’s workforce.

Q: Do you support the way President Trump is pursuing international trade and tariff issues? Why or why not? How will it help or hurt North Carolina?

International trade is an integral component of North Carolina’s competitive economy, which is why tariffs pose a serious threat to the state’s ability to compete globally. More than one million North Carolinians have jobs that depend on trade and new tariffs would jeopardize more than one billion dollars in total state exports. The administration should focus on preserving our nation’s important trade relationships rather than cultivating a climate that increases trade barriers and impedes growth.

Q: Readers who participated in our Your Voice online tool wanted to know what policy makers will do to attract well-paying, sustainable jobs for all N.C. residents. What should policy makers do?

North Carolina could solve every other economic issue facing the state but if we fail to fill our state’s talent pipeline, none of it will matter. As I stated in my earlier response, in order to better prepare tomorrow’s workforce, North Carolina must boost career and technical education opportunities, increase access to early childhood education, improve early literacy proficiencies, and maintain high academic standards – just to name a few. North Carolina’s lawmakers should take a comprehensive approach to addressing education policy, working closely with stakeholders from the business community, community colleges, K-12 schools and higher education to ensure we’re appropriately aligning our state’s education systems with the jobs available.

Read the NC Influencers story summarizing responses here.