Governor Cooper Challenges Workforce Leaders to Increase Work-Based Learning Opportunities New Data Tools and Greater Focus on Employer Engagement Highlighted at NCWorks Commission Meeting


Governor Roy Cooper challenged business and workforce development leaders to increase the number of work-based learning opportunities across the state, part of a broader initiative to help North Carolinians become more job-ready. Governor Cooper offered his challenge today at a meeting of the NCWorks Commission, along with a call for the commissioners to provide him firm recommendations at the Commission’s next meeting for further action to advance the state’s workforce development agenda.

“I want North Carolinians to be better educated, healthier and have more money in their pockets,” said Cooper. “The linchpin to achieving that goal is to help people get good-paying jobs to support themselves and their families. Making North Carolina job-ready means getting people the skills they need for better-paying jobs and then connecting businesses to those workers. An educated, well-trained workforce will help grow North Carolina companies, attract new businesses and ensure we can adapt to a changing economy.

Cooper and the Commission highlighted work-based learning approaches, such as apprenticeships and job-shadowing, that have consistently proven successful at helping students learn technical skills as well as important soft skills that modern workplaces require, all while giving students the hands-on experience that employers value.

Governor Cooper stressed the importance of engaging business leaders, and making sure workforce development efforts are employer-led.

“We have great examples of employer leaders stepping up to create partnerships and collaborate on training academies,” said Governor Cooper. “Let’s hold them up as a model for other businesses, and then replicate their success across the state.”

Governor Cooper also updated commissioners on new upgrades being implemented to the state’s data infrastructure in order to map employer needs to the state’s talent supply. The Labor Economics and Analysis Division (LEAD) at the Department of Commerce is building a dashboard tool to help visualize the state’s educational pipeline in relation to demand for particular occupational areas. Visualization tools such as the new dashboard can guide jobseekers towards the skill areas most in demand in a changing marketplace.

North Carolina’s workforce development system, operating under the banner NCWorks, provides services to both jobseekers and business leaders looking for workers. North Carolina operates 81 NCWorks Career Centers across the state. Utilizing personnel and programs provided by the North Carolina Community College System, the Workforce Solutions Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, 23 regionally focused workforce development boards and local community workforce groups, NCWorks provides a seamless, one-stop entry point for workers or businesses to get the help they need.

The NCWorks Commission is a 33-member board that includes representatives from the business community, heads of state workforce agencies, educators, and community leaders. The Commission recommends policies and strategies to enable the state’s workforce and businesses to compete in the global economy.

The Commission is designated as the state’s Workforce Development Board under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Led by a private sector chair, all members are appointed by the Governor.

“The skills and education required to find and keep a good job are changing faster than ever,” said Governor Cooper. “Because the terrain is shifting, we need to quickly expand the use of proven workforce development strategies, such as work-based learning and employer-led career pathway programs.”

Following the Governor’s remarks, the NCWorks Commission approved and endorsed four new regional plans to help people prepare and train for work. Known as NCWorks Certified Career Pathways, the education and training plans help job seekers enter particular industries. These pathways are designed by employers in collaboration with the state’s workforce development and education professionals. Career pathways outline and define the following:

  • Necessary courses at the high school and college level 
  • Required credentials 
  • Experience required and the employers in a given area who provide work-based learning activities related to that field 
  • Various certificates and degrees in the related field 

Career pathways are designed not only for students, but also for adults and individuals who have lost jobs or been out of the workforce through no fault of their own. Individuals access a career pathway through public schools, community colleges, and public and private universities.

The commission certified the following pathways at its November 15 meeting:

  • Health Care (Southwest Collaborative)- approved for Mecklenburg, Gaston, Anson, Cabarrus, Iredell, Lincoln, Rowan, Stanly, and Union counties. 
  • Advanced Manufacturing (Eastern Carolina) - approved for Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Pamlico, and Wayne counties. 
  • Advanced Manufacturing (Western Piedmont) - for Caldwell, Alexander, Burke, and Catawba counties. 
  • Transportation & Logistics (Triadworks) - approved for Alamance, Moore, Orange, Randolph, Montgomery, Guilford, Davidson, Surry, Stokes, Rockingham, Caswell, Yadkin, Forsyth, and Davie counties. 

Since 2016, the NCWorks Commission has approved a total of 18 Certified Career Pathways.


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