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Economic Analysis and Workforce Alignment Strategies

A seamless pipeline of available employees with needed skills and qualifications is imperative for a community to attract jobs and investment.
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Written by Sarah Miller, Consultant, Government Services

The Public Sector team here at CAEL is getting ready to put the final stamp of approval on another Economic Analysis and Workforce Alignment strategy for clients in the Greater Charlotte Region in North Carolina (lovingly referred to as "Centralina"). Through our work we have provided significant detail to this 17 county, two state region which helped to align strategies and programming for the workforce and education stakeholders to meet the needs of high-growth and in demand industries. The need for this type of regional analysis and structured plan to meet the future needs of the workforce was evident to the key players in the region before we began our work and is even more realized now.

Ronnie Bryant, President and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership (a public/private economic development organization serving the Greater Charlotte Region) brought the skills alignment issue front and center in his recent weekly memo (included below). CAEL is excited to be wrapping up another successful alignment strategy for the region and is beyond pleased to see issues particular to the skilling of the workforce being highlight by one of the project stakeholders.

Intellectual capital is an asset you can take to the bank

"Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource." ‒- John F. Kennedy

For site selectors, a skilled workforce is at least as critical in making their relocation and expansion decisions as are a suitable site and other competitive factors. Therefore, a seamless pipeline of available employees with needed skills and qualifications is imperative for a community to attract jobs and investment. Fortunately, in Charlotte USA, industry and academia work hand-in-hand to keep that pipeline flowing.

Last week, the Charlotte Regional Partnership and Small Business Technology Development Center hosted representatives from the UNC system, UNC Charlotte and the business community to discuss what businesses want in their employees and how the UNC system can help provide it.

We often think of our 10 regional community colleges as being on the front line of worker training. They create company-customized programs and, with industry input, offer ongoing programs to train and retrain workers. In fact, they have such a significant and ongoing impact on our regional economy, the Partnership recognized our regional community colleges with the 2010 Jerry Award.

K-12 programs also are critical in closing skills gaps between workers' capabilities and industry needs. MeckTech, for example, complements our community college and university efforts by focusing on high school students and their transitions to post-secondary education and the workplace. Like other successful training programs, it works closely with businesses to ensure that the instruction and experience the students get meet industry expectations and needs.

Working with businesses also has been a long-time focus for UNC Charlotte, our 2009 Jerry Award honoree. The newly opened Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) is just the most recent example. EPIC was created in response to the energy industry's need for highly trained engineers qualified to meet that industry's unique challenges. The university conceived and brought EPIC to fruition with the support of and close collaboration with the energy industry that it serves. Similarly, UNC Charlotte partners with companies in the aerospace industry in its Center for Precision Metrology; with distribution channels through its Center for Lean Logistics and Engineered Systems; with the health industry through its Bioinformatics programs; with financial services and other sensitive industries through its CyberDNA Research Center, among others. Ventureprise and other operations that will be housed in a new Portal building will continue to nurture entrepreneurs.

So, what else can the university do? Plenty, according to the participants at last week's meeting:

Help students achieve industry certification. In manufacturing and IT, for example, industry certification tells the business -- and their customers -- that employees know what they're doing.

  • Offer more continuing education programs that help businesses keep up on industry changes and expand their skills.

  • Offer more opportunities, beyond internships, to expose students to businesses, so they can better understand how what they are learning in the classroom applies in the workplace. Among the suggestions were for universities to provide field trips to businesses for both students and faculty, so they can see first-hand how companies operate; incorporate business leaders in classes as guest speakers; host open forums for in-depth conversations among the business community, students and academics.
  • Graduate students equipped with both hard and soft skills. Students need to know how to write and communicate well and analyze information to make informed decisions.
  • Improve communication between the universities and the business community, so that faculty members and businesses that might benefit from university research connect. The state of North Carolina is creating a searchable database, Reach NC (Research, Engagement, And Capabilities Hub of North Carolina), for the public to access information on the expertise available at its universities.
  • Finally, Charlotte USA businesses asked the UNC system to recognize the importance of the Charlotte region -- and UNC Charlotte -- in driving the state's economy. They asked for more funding for UNC Charlotte and a waiver for relocating company executives of the one-year residency requirement to receive in-state tuition.

    From K-12 through our universities, effective education is critical to developing our regional economy. A sufficient pool of skilled workers is mandatory. That pipeline must keep flowing for the Partnership to bring job and investment opportunities to our region.

    -Taken from the Monday Memo sent by the Ronnie Bryant, President and CEO of The Charlotte Regional Partnership. 12/3/12

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