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Planting the Talent Seeds in Johnston County with JoCo Works

A community collaborative career exploration event drew more than 3,000 eighth-grade students from across Johnston County on Friday.

“Talent and workforce issues have been a top concern of business leaders and site-selection consultants in recent years all over the country,” said Chris Johnson, director of Johnston County Economic Development. “Here in Johnston County, we’re working to gather everybody in the region onto the same page and make sure we harness every available resource to its fullest potential.”

North Carolina’s world-class community college system has a reputation for being one of the best in the nation. However, site consultants and their clients are asking what communities are doing in high school, and even middle school, to prepare the next generation of talent.

NC Chamber Director of Government Affairs Debra Derr sees it firsthand in her work and was on the ground in Johnston County on Oct. 14 to see the collaboration in person.

The Johnston County Workforce Alliance brings together Johnston County Economic Development, Johnston Community College, Johnston County Public Schools, three local chambers of commerce, the NC Works Career Center, the Johnston County Partnership for Children, and other organizations to build a collaborative approach to workforce.

The alliance developed the JoCo Works program. Presented by NC Chamber Cornerstone member Novo Nordisk, JoCo Works is an industry-led collaborative supported by education, business, civic, and government partners to meet Johnston County’s workforce needs of the future. The collaborative culminates in a curriculum and an in-person career exposition specifically for eighth-grade students.

“From educational settings to career choices, our region offers an exceptionally diverse set of opportunities,” said Chad Henry, corporate vice president for Novo Nordisk in Clayton, N.C. “As a large employer in Johnston County, part of our responsibility at Novo Nordisk is to inspire courage and help citizens imagine what’s possible. JoCo Works does just that. It’s engaging, hands-on, and exciting for all of us as we help students identify their passions and a path for connecting those passions with a future career.”

“JOCO WORKS truly takes a village to organize. It would not be possible without the full support of Johnston County Public Schools, Johnston Community College, and our business community,” said Kelly Wallace, director of operations for the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce. “Together with Novo Nordisk as our lead business champion, we are planting seeds with our youth on the career options in our region, the education pathways, and income potential in high-demand, high-growth industries.”

Echoes Johnson, “we are now opening the eyes of every eighth grader in Johnston County to the incredible career opportunities right here in their backyard. We are confident that our true success won’t be measured until four to five years from now. We are planting the talent seeds not only for existing companies that call Johnston County home, but industries that will locate here in the future.”