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Workforce Revival in NC: Central Carolina

In this second workforce revival story of a series, Vice President of Workforce Development at Central Carolina Community College Margaret Roberton explains how employer-led collaboratives strengthen North Carolina’s talent pipelines. Margaret graduated from the virtual Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Academy in May 2021.

To propel collaboration between job creators, community colleges, and workforce groups, the NC Chamber Foundation and U.S. Chamber Foundation offer the TPM Academy. Participants of the academy are employers, education providers, local chambers, business associations, and economic development groups. They utilize the TPM model, a method that places an employer’s talent needs front and center when addressing workforce challenges. This demand and data-driven approach is designed to close skill gaps across state and sectors using supply chain principles.

Incorporating her learnings from TPM training, Margaret convened local employers and economic and workforce development organizations in her region to form a manufacturing collaborative, the Central Carolina Manufacturing Institute, through Central Carolina Community College. The NC Chamber asked Margaret about her experience in building talent-focused and employer-led workforce collaboratives.

Why did you join the TPM Academy?

During the last several years, I’ve worked with community colleges, employers, and economic development entities to consider methods of addressing workforce needs. In all cases, everyone at the table sincerely wanted to ensure that North Carolinians had the skills for good jobs, and North Carolina employers had access to a talent pool of qualified workers. I’ve seen these efforts move forward with informal structures and a variety of advisory board or partnership scenarios with varying degrees of success.

The TPM model provides a highly structured but flexible framework, and places the employer in the center. The employer’s position is not to advise, but to define the workforce priorities. The other partners in education, talent supply, and economic development are critical, but it’s the employer’s role to bring these partners into the conversation. Using data and industry insight, the employer defines the specific talent issues that need to be addressed. The TPM Academy taught this structure and philosophy, presenting access to network resources which would envision how the tools could support the employers in our region.

What are the most useful TPM tools?

One of the essential components is actually Strategy One, where you’re bringing together employers to determine a shared need and willingness to work collaboratively. The balance of the TPM methods do the heavy lift of demand planning, competency definitions, talent flow analysis, talent supply chains, and continuous improvement. It’s the power of employers working together to address common pain points that is an amazing concept. Overall, the structure of the TPM strategies delivers a cohesive means of moving through the process while also allowing a great deal of flexibility to take each strategy as it fits into a specific collaborative’s needs. The key is to keep moving forward towards those employer-driven goals.

The TPM guide has a great web tool for tracking data, generating surveys, defining partners, and producing reports including ROI calculators. It is a tool I’m looking forward to using as we move forward with collaborative models in the region.

How will these tools advance workforce development in your region?

Central Carolina Community College has several sectors across our service area, including construction, agriculture, biotechnology, healthcare, and technology, where we want to consider the TPM model as the tool for positioning employers as the drivers of talent conversations. There are strong workforce and economic development partners in the region such as Sanford Area Growth Alliance (SAGA), Chatham Economic Development Corporation, Harnett Economic Development Council, Triangle South Workforce Development Board, Chatham, Lee, and Harnett high school CTE programs among others within the community. The TPM framework will support a formal structure of how we can collaborate to meet the talent needs of our current employers. Following the TPM strategy, we can also ensure a skilled workforce for businesses looking to locate here.

How did you start the manufacturing collaborative?

The Central Carolina Manufacturing Institute (CCMI) was started through a conversation with Bob Joyce (SAGA), Mike Smith (formerly SAGA and now Chatham Economic Development Corporation), and Central Carolina Community College in early fall 2020. They heard about a program in western North Carolina where employers were working with local community colleges and the Workforce Development Board to address a regional need for entry-level manufacturing skills. We sought a similar dialogue with our regional manufacturers to identify their most pressing needs.

We began by hosting a range of manufacturing employers across Chatham, Harnett, and Lee counties at an exploratory meeting, where they offered insight about primary pain points for their talent pipelines. Our group also invited representatives from the NC Manufacturing Institute to share success stories for an initiative responding to a similar need. These initial meetings created a solid cohort of manufacturers focused on collaboration to solve talent issues and raise awareness for manufacturing careers.

How will TPM contribute to the Central Carolina Manufacturing Institute?

As we formed the CCMI, I had the opportunity to join the virtual TPM Academy which provided numerous tools to incorporate into our collaborative work for manufacturers. We haven’t hit all the TPM stages squarely, and we’ve built the structure while working the initiative simultaneously, but we’re successfully moving forward with employer-defined needs and responses.

We are fortunate that this effort centers on our manufacturing employers but includes strong commitments from workforce and economic development partners in the region including SAGA, Chatham Economic Development Corporation, Harnett Economic Development Council, Triangle South Workforce Development Board, and Central Carolina Community College. We’re connecting with our local high schools in Chatham, Harnett, and Lee to begin engaging them as partners in securing talent supply chains.

What are your plans for the manufacturing collaborative?

Our goal is to have a sustainable structure to address manufacturing workforce needs in the region. At this point, several employers have signed partnership agreements including A.D. TUBI, Bharat Forge, Boon Edam, Caterpillar, Edelbrock, and Pentair representing different sizes and types of manufacturing across the region. This group and others engaged in the collaborative have defined the initial talent needs and identified partners in developing a response.

We’re also planning an awareness campaign to highlight the career opportunities within manufacturing. As these efforts begin to demonstrate a positive return for employers, we hope to bring additional companies into the conversation. The collaborative model is not about a single course or a one-time response. The strategy is a sustainable structure that presents a means for continuous assessment of needs and defining responses. As we continue improving the CCMI, we’ll formally implement the TPM tools for better visibility into our efforts. These tools will capture the ROI stories generated from our work.

Why are business-driven collaboratives key to solving talent supply shortages?

Collaboratives, as opposed to advisory groups, position the employer as the decision-maker who identifies their most critical talent needs. Such design ensures that the conversation centers on workforce demands and propels all potential partners forward to champion a focused response. A collaborative also leverages the voice of many to name the need, creating a shared value and accountability model for the group. From a provider perspective, understanding talent demands across a broad workforce sector greatly assists in making strategic decisions. We can push limited resources where the greatest demand has been identified.

North Carolina holds a diverse employer base, with many talent sourcing providers and deep potential employee resources. The business-driven collaboratives are structured efforts that can advance improved response to talent pipeline needs. Assets can be better leveraged, particularly across regional responses, and scaled or redirected as talent needs shift. Collaboratives drive targeted responses to talent supply shortages and reflect the dynamics impacting workforce ecosystems.