The NCWorks Commission approved a new two-year strategic plan and certified local Career Centers while meeting at the Hotel Ballast in Wilmington on May 15.
The strategic plan, entitled “Preparing North Carolina’s Workforce for Today and Tomorrow,” is aligned with Governor Roy Cooper’s “NC Job Ready” initiative.
“Our strategic plan will guide our efforts to continue to develop the workforce that North Carolina needs in order to strengthen our employers, attract new businesses and adapt to a changing economy,” said Tom Rabon, chair of the NCWorks Commission, a 33-member panel that includes the business community, state workforce agencies, educators and community leaders. The Commission is designated as the state’s workforce development board under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Four major goals form the basis of the strategic plan. These goals are to:
- Prepare workers to succeed in the North Carolina economy by increasing skills and education attainment;
- Create a workforce system that is responsive to the needs of the economy by fostering employer leadership;
- Promote replication of creative solutions to challenging workforce problems by supporting local innovation; and
- Promote workforce system access, alignment, integration and modernization.
Under the first goal, related to education attainment, the plan calls for making progress toward the goal set by the myFutureNC Commission: that by 2030, 2 million North Carolinians between the ages of 25 and 44 years old have a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential. Governor Cooper and other state leaders have endorsed that attainment goal.
The second goal, employer leadership, includes an emphasis on supporting increased work-based learning programs to expose students to career opportunities through career awareness and career exploration such as internships and apprenticeships and developing industry-led partnerships to ensure workforce agencies are working together to address business needs.
The “local innovation” goal calls for promoting leadership development opportunities for the state’s workforce professionals, and for funding community-based initiatives that pilot new ideas or replicate proven programs.
The final goal is related to the coordination of the workforce development system itself, which involves numerous partner agencies. Among other items, the plan calls for enhancing public awareness of the services provided through NCWorks for individuals and businesses, while researching new technological means to serve the system’s customers.
The plan also features an overall mission statement: “to ensure North Carolina has an innovative, relevant, effective, and efficient workforce development system that develops adaptable, work-ready, skilled talent to meet the current and future needs of workers and businesses to achieve and sustain economic prosperity; and to ensure North Carolinians are ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow by increasing access to education and skills training, fostering employer leadership to prepare workers, and supporting and scaling local innovation.”
Also during the May 15 meeting, the Commission officially certified the NCWorks Career Centers in Charlotte. The Charlotte Works board area serves Mecklenburg County. The NCWorks Commission establishes customer service standards for all NCWorks Career Centers to ensure high-quality and consistent service delivery across the state. These “one-stop” centers assist job seekers with improving their skills and finding jobs, and help businesses develop a qualified workforce. Certification indicates that the centers deliver services in an integrated, coordinated way, have well-trained professional staff and are accessible to all customers.
The meeting also spotlighted workforce initiatives in southeastern North Carolina. Brunswick County’s “Pathways to Purpose” program is one of the six local partnerships across the state that won NCWorks Local Innovation Fund grants in 2018. These funds support efforts to connect people with the skills they need to obtain good-paying jobs. The fund is an initiative of the NCWorks Commission and is administered by the N.C. Commerce Department’s Workforce Solutions division.
Ginger Brick, director of the Cape Fear Workforce Development Board, and Greg Bland, dean of continuing education & workforce development at Brunswick Community College, explained to Commission members that the program is designed to train construction and repair workers to fix damage from Hurricane Florence. The project overhauls the traditional approach to delivering instruction, managing retention and awarding workforce credentials in order to keep pace with the demand on the area’s construction industry.
In another presentation related to Hurricane Florence, Natalie English, president & CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, reported on how local employers joined forces with nonprofits and local government partners in the aftermath of the disaster. To prepare for future storms, English urged an increased focus on small business recovery and on the resilience of the region’s transportation infrastructure.
Brick added that the Cape Fear Workforce Development Board has partnered with the Workforce Solutions division to administer a federally-funded disaster relief temporary employment program for Hurricane Florence in the area. The program matches eligible people who need jobs with nonprofit organizations and local government agencies that need workers to support clean-up, recovery and humanitarian assistance. After initially planning to place 50 workers, the board far exceeded that goal and has served 92 participants to date.