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NC Chamber Foundation Convenes State Leaders from Business and Education

The NC Chamber Foundation’s Institute for Workforce Competitiveness held its second meeting last week with an impressive roster of business and education leaders from across the state.

Employers have a unique opportunity to advance business-driven solutions for increasing the quality and quantity of our state’s workforce – to meet job demands today and for the future. The breadth of our stakeholders expertise—from the business community and workforce and education sectors—provided for a robust conversation with action-oriented questions and thoughtful ideas.

Key themes from the discussion:

Rising tides lift all boats:

  • With a historically tight labor market, it’s vital to grow the talent pool and eliminate unnecessary barriers to entry. This includes identifying actionable solutions to increase diversity in the workforce, help women return to work post-pandemic, and solve childcare obstacles.
  • Industry and regional-specific collaboration will be necessary to align in-demand skills with workforce pathways. For example, the Talent Pipeline Management Program is an industry-focused, data-driven talent strategy that builds strategic alignment with local workforce and education systems to close the skills gap. The Institute will continue expanding the TPM program across local communities to meet this need.
  • In addition to industry-specific skills, we need to think broadly about transferable skills and core competencies that are highly valued by all employers. For example, NC Commerce Sec. Machelle Sanders discussed the growth in the life sciences industry and the need for a universal skill set, including skills such as project management and problem solving. Businesses highlighted programs that engage students in career competition experience that elevates this type of learning. Is there an opportunity to scale this?

Furthering business, education & workforce engagement:

  • The discussion focused on deepening business engagement throughout the education system. Businesses shared great examples of how to reach students of all ages and expose them to career opportunities in their community.
  • Stakeholders also discussed alignment between workforce and economic development efforts of the state. NC Commerce Chief Deputy Secretary Jordan Whichard noted the importance of employers engaging with the workforce system.

Shifting to a long-term investment mindset:

  • There is a significant tension between what employers recognize as a long-term issue and their urgent short-term needs.
  • The group agreed on the importance of employers committing time and resources to workforce development efforts such as industry collaboratives, training and teaching courses, volunteering at schools, among others. How can we help employers shift to a long-term investment mindset on workforce when they are dealing with an immediate shortage?
  • The progression of work-based learning is incredibly effective for workforce readiness. Employers want to provide more internship and apprenticeship opportunities; however, they often face liability and funding obstacles. The Institute will continue to discuss how we can address these specific problems.