With Governor Roy Cooper in attendance, the NCWorks Commission met on May 23 to approve new Career Pathways, certify Career Centers and celebrate local innovations in workforce development. The group held its quarterly meeting at Moretz Mills in Hickory, marking the first time the Commission has met in western North Carolina.
Moretz Mills features an event venue and space for a variety of businesses in a historic, renovated hosiery mill. NCWorks Commission Chair Kevin Trapani said that it was fitting that they meet in such a repurposed facility, since the state’s workforce services often help North Carolinians “refocus and repurpose their lives.”
In his opening remarks, Governor Cooper said he often hears that workforce development is complicated and challenging, but, he added, “It’s too important not to step up and make sure we do workforce development the right way, allowing for local differences and local innovations, but also making sure we have a statewide strategy that will be successful.”
The Governor described his “NC Job Ready” workforce strategy as focused on three core priorities: 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. He said that the NCWorks Commission is the best place to promote that agenda because it brings together the people and state agencies who can put that strategy into action.
Led by a private sector chair, the 33-member NCWorks Commission includes representatives from the business community, heads of state workforce agencies, educators and community leaders. The Commission, which is designated as the state’s Workforce Development Board under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, recommends policies and strategies to enable the state’s workforce and businesses to compete in the global economy.
“We have great talent here in North Carolina, but we have to make sure our workforce keeps up with a changing economy,” Governor Cooper said. “I’m excited about what the NCWorks Commission is doing, and I’m pleased to see innovative partnerships in Catawba County and in communities across our state.”
Following the Governor’s remarks, the NCWorks Commission approved and endorsed three new regional plans to help North Carolinians prepare and train for work. Known as NCWorks Certified Career Pathways, the education and training plans help job seekers enter particular high-demand fields. 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;
-Experience required and the employers in a given area who provide work-based learning activities related to that field; and
Various certificates and degrees in the related field.
Career Pathways are designed not only for younger 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 May meeting:
Nursing & Allied Healthcare (Western Piedmont) – approved for Caldwell, Alexander, Burke and Catawba counties. This is the region’s second Career Pathway, after Advanced Manufacturing.
Manufacturing & Welding (High Country) – approved for Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Watauga, Yancey, Mitchell and Wilkes counties. This is the region’s second Career Pathway, after Nursing & Related Healthcare.
Construction Technology (Cape Fear) – approved for Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties. This is the region’s first certified Career Pathway.
NCWorks Career Pathways Director Dr. Dion Clark said that the new pathways made a total of 30 certified by the Commission to date.
Later in the meeting, the Commission officially certified all three NCWorks Career Centers of the Western Piedmont area (serving Caldwell, Alexander, Burke and Catawba counties). These centers were the first to be certified under newly revised criteria that the Commission approved in 2017.
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.
In other business, NCWorks Commission Executive Director Catherine Moga Bryant highlighted local innovations from the Western Piedmont region, including “Work in Burke,” a career awareness campaign that fights to change the perception of job opportunities in a rural area; “K-64,” a public-private partnership created by the Catawba County Commissioners and managed by Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) to connect students of all ages with the working world; and the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy, at which CVCC partners with manufacturers to provide low-cost training for high-demand careers in the furniture industry. Commission members toured the Furniture Academy in Newton prior to their meeting.
Moga Bryant said that the Commission was launching a series of “Spotlights on Local Workforce Innovations” to bring greater attention to initiatives like these and inspire their replication across North Carolina.