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Workforce Revival in NC: Asheville-Buncombe County

Asheville Chamber and Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County launched “Inclusive Hiring Partners" to boost talent pipelines for local employers and advance access to career opportunity for their residents.

North Carolina’s job creators are leading the state’s workforce revitalization by finding new ways to attract, train, and retain talent. We share their stories in this special series on local workforce actions.

Solving Two Challenges via One Powerful Program 

Our first story comes from Asheville-Buncombe County, where an impactful initiative was launched to address talent supply shortages. The program, Inclusive Hiring Partners, removes obstacles that prevent many North Carolinians from entering (or returning to) the workforce.

In 2018, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County analyzed data from its regional workforce survey, completed by 700+ employers. The results revealed that more than 70 percent of employers turned to personal relationships and contacts for hiring demands. This strategy is even less successful in the current, competitive labor market. The job creators of Asheville-Buncombe County wanted access to a broader, more diverse talent pool. At the same time, local residents facing employment barriers needed proactive support to secure open job opportunities.

Community leaders sought a solution for both challenges. Their conversations resulted in the inception of “Inclusive Hiring Partners,” a program funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation in July of 2020 for a three-year cycle. Since then, the Asheville Chamber and EDC’s workforce development team has collaborated with community partners to connect individuals enduring employment hindrances (such as intergenerational poverty, past justice involvement or incarceration, or addiction recovery) to available and rewarding jobs.

Building Relationships and Boosting Workforce

Inclusive Hiring Partners is currently working with 22 employers in high-demand industries like manufacturing, health care, construction, and local government. Each employer agrees to provide participating job candidates with an interview. This way, even if the connection does not result in a hire, applicants gain valuable experience defining their skills and career interests. To date, Inclusive Hiring Partners has engaged 68 people, including 19 individuals who have enrolled as participants in the program. The initiative is already proving its positive effect across Asheville-Buncombe County. Nearly 80 percent of Inclusive Hiring Partners’ active job seekers are now full-time employees.

The Asheville Chamber and EDC’s workforce development team strives to partner with more organizations, employers, and job seekers to boost talent pipelines and advance access to career opportunities.

Learn more about Inclusive Hiring Partners at IHP-WNC.org.