Aligning Employer Needs and Worker Skills

| October 3, 2014

Tom head shotBy Tom Campbell
Executive Producer, NC SPIN

Governor Pat McCrory sometimes says things that don’t sound the way we think he intended them. In kicking off his 100 county NCWORKS tour promoting workforce development, McCrory offhandedly stated we don’t need any more lawyers or journalists, but do need more people who can drive trucks, work on HVAC systems and have IT skills. He should have left the lawyers and certainly the journalists alone, but his point was well taken: our state must do better at aligning the skills employers need with the skillsets workers possess.

Time was a person could graduate high school, get a job in one of North Carolina’s many manufacturing plants earning good wages and retire with the same company. Those jobs and those companies are gone and will never return, one of the big factors impacting our state’s economy in recent years. We are not alone.

Nate Silver’s 538 blog says the median U.S. household income is just under $52,000 and hasn’t risen since 1988. North Carolina’s median household income fell from $51,125 in 2000 to $45,570 in 2010. When the factory closed many workers lacked the skills needed to get a comparable or better job; too many who did find jobs are underemployed, some no longer qualify as middle-income citizens. A few, no-doubt, joined the upper-income ranks but more have been reduced to lower-income status.

North Carolina’s August unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, the third month in a row it has risen. The Employment Security Commission reports there are 315,000 out of work. Even as those rates dropped over the past year we still have 14,000 fewer jobs than the 2007 pre-recession levels.

Curiously, many North Carolina employers report they have jobs to offer but cannot find the workers with the skills they need. So McCrory and Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker are on a mission with a message, our need to match employers’ needs with workers’ skills.

For too many years we’ve preached to children that if they didn’t get a college degree they couldn’t earn a good living and support a family. It is true many jobs require a baccalaureate degree but less than 30 percent of our population has that four-year degree and a large number of good paying jobs, don’t need that degree, but they do require more and better training for jobs that are available, the unfilled jobs our employers say they cannot fill. This is a theme Pat McCrory sounded as a candidate and continues today.

This workforce preparedness training can best be achieved by our state’s 58 community colleges working in conjunction with our high schools. They are located closest to employers, closest to our people and are best able to discern the skillsets demanded by employers, then provide the training needed to fill job openings.

North Carolina’s Community Colleges have not gotten the recognition or appreciation they deserve and certainly have not been sufficiently funded. At times it has seemed they want to become four-year degree-granting institutions but their best role is now and always has been in preparing people with the training and education needed to get better jobs.

The governor is meeting with business, education and civic leaders to reinforce this timely and important message to speed up our state’s economic recovery. We need better workforce preparedness.

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Category: Economy, SPIN Blog

Comments (1)

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  1. Janette Good says:

    Public schools are too busy teaching junk like social sciences and playing (loosing classroom time) on technology. Look at the auto recalls due to robotic assembly. A human would have found the bad parts way before it got to that level. Look at the quality from food, clothing, and appliances to the nails, steal, wood, etc. of inferior products we have. People are willing to settle because products are junk anymore. This is the “so called technology we have been brain washed to accept. I’ve used calibrators, special rulers, and job related hand tools but it was my hand, eyes, and smell that found the inferior assembly part. While computers can do a lot, they still cannot produce effective usability like a human. Look at the security breaches, lost office work, the changing when change is not necessary for working but to sell a product. On the job, training is far better than college preparation for skilled (blue-collar) jobs. How and why does this make me the big expert? I have worked in all types of jobs and professions. I was trained on the job in a plant. I have went to trade schools that government said I needed but the real training came when I punched the clock and change the skills government forced me to learn to make money. I’ve have a BS plus degree and been in professions and seen stupid techniques forced on me to use my profession. Now let me digress: I took my brother to get his plumbing license and one of the stupid questions was; you dig a ditch so many feet long and so many feet wide then how much cu. ft. of dirt do you have left? Well the question is stupid because cu. ft. of dirt has nothing to do with; in that the kind of dirt lay of the ground, how much rock and how level the ditch is to run a line is the important question to keep the line running, self-cleaning, and how it looks once the grass grows back. Now you get the picture? Government doesn’t train but companies do and Government is using technology as to the reason they need these government-trained workers. This is just away for government to take more control of the individual’s life and choke their freedoms to survive. These skills for a workforce can be taught at the public school level if we concentrated on a work force and not government controlled society.
    This is more government trickery to make people feel like they need the government to work, live, and survive. When one is spending a quarter of a century in a classroom before they can make a living is something wrong with this picture. Public school should have a structured so that a person is ready to work by 12th grade. Citizens should not have to pay taxes and not have a workforce and the pupil has to go pay government for community college training before they can work. The companies selling technology is tricking schools into thinking it is necessary for every aspect of life when the technology being taught will become obsolete by the time a pupil graduates is irresponsible of government to waste a pupil’s life to play a money game.