Governor Roy Cooper today laid out his priorities for workforce development, a primary focus for his administration as he seeks to ensure more North Carolinians are ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Cooper spoke at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy to highlight the core principles of his job readiness initiative, NC Job Ready.
“I want North Carolinians to be better educated, healthier, and have more money in their pockets so that they can live more abundant, purposeful lives,” said Gov. Cooper. “The linchpin to achieving that goal is to help people get good-paying jobs to support themselves and their families.”
Cooper’s initiative is built on three core principles: skills and education attainment so North Carolinians are ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow, employer leadership to remain relevant to evolving industry needs, and local innovation to take great ideas and apply them statewide.
“Business leaders tell me time and again that they have job openings but can’t find workers with the right skills,” Gov. Cooper said. “A better trained workforce can help businesses grow and give workers new opportunities.”
Tomorrow, Gov. Cooper will speak to the NCWorks Commission to present his priority agenda items. Successful workforce development is collaborative and the NCWorks Commission convenes this partnership among education, business, government and community leaders.
“Getting North Carolina job ready means helping people get the skills they need for better-paying jobs and then connecting businesses to those workers,” Gov. Cooper added. “An educated, well-trained workforce will strengthen North Carolina companies, attract new businesses, and ensure we can adapt to a changing economy."
NC Job Ready priorities are focused in the following areas:
Skills and Education Attainment
Education is the foundation to a strong workforce. As the skill requirements of jobs are increasing and rapidly changing, businesses need to find people with the right skills for the jobs they create and North Carolinians need access to training so they can be ready for those jobs.
- Career awareness. Every North Carolinian needs access to career information that will tell them which jobs are growing in their area and which training programs can prepare them for those jobs. Career exploration includes individual experiences with employers and access to data and career exploration tools.
- Making North Carolina a Top Ten Educated State. Governor Cooper has laid out a goal to make North Carolina a Top Ten Educated State by 2025 by increasing the number of four-year-olds enrolled in high quality pre-K, raising the high school graduation rate, and increasing the number of North Carolinians with a post-secondary degree or credential. An educated North Carolina is a job-ready North Carolina.
- Easier access to job training for high-demand fields. Too many employers have job openings they can’t fill because they can’t find workers with the right skills. It should be easier for workers to get the training in those fields and keep our employers growing. Already, North Carolina has developed 27 Certified Career Pathways to help North Carolinians get the education and training needed to work in high-demand, high-wage careers, with additional pathways being developed.
- Lower barriers to education. The cost of school is more than tuition. Supporting North Carolinians who need help with things like childcare, transportation and the cost of books and materials while they get trained for a new career is critical. Internet access can also be a barrier that must be addressed, from kindergarten through college and career.
Employer-led job training programs have the best career outcomes. Employers know best what skills their workers need and employer involvement is key for workforce development and job readiness. Businesses that invest in developing North Carolina’s workforce will benefit from well-trained employees and a more innovative workplace that better reflects its community.
- Increased work-based learning opportunities. The governor is asking employers to partner with educators to offer more work-based learning opportunities to give students a taste of the technical skills associated with a given career, expose students to critical soft skills needed to be successful, and equip them with the tools to decide if it’s the right path. That starts with employers getting involved in their local schools to increase students’ career awareness and understanding of the jobs available now and in the future. Work-based learning also includes internships and apprenticeships where students experience real-world professional environments and learn new skills specific to the job they hope to pursue. North Carolina is currently one of six states selected for a project to create and expand work-based learning opportunities to connect young people with career opportunities through the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices.
- Employer-led training for new and existing employees. Enabling employers to offer training both on their own and in partnership with local schools is crucial to developing a job-ready North Carolina. Successfully upskilling workers will enable employers to promote from within and bring in new employees to fill the vacancies.
- Streamlined employer partnership. As market dynamics shift quickly, North Carolina needs to be adaptive and responsive to the evolving needs of businesses. All agencies engaged in economic and workforce development will collaborate to fully understand business needs and efficiently deliver the right services to address those needs.
Communities across North Carolina are developing great local models of workforce development. North Carolina should build on those successes and replicate them in more places to continue building and expanding innovative solutions.
- Leadership development. Local education and workforce partnerships drive successful career readiness plans. Investing further in these local leaders will increase the capacity of their programs and help them drive change in their communities. For example, the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the North Carolina Association of Workforce Development Boards are investing in additional training and support of career center staff and local workforce boards.
- Innovation and replication funds. Local leaders know their communities best, and they deserve support in piloting new ideas designed for their areas. When those innovations are successful, other communities throughout the state should hear about the success and have the tools and funds necessary to replicate proven programs. For example, the North Carolina Department of Commerce is supporting a call center pilot through the Capital Area Workforce Development Board and a sector partnership pilot through the Cumberland County Workforce Development Board.
- Hometown Strong. North Carolina’s rural counties have unique workforce challenges, and they are also home to terrific examples of local innovation. Hometown Strong and NC Job Ready will work together to serve the workforce needs of rural communities.