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IEI Takeaways: Tackling the Skills Gap, One Barrier at a Time

Here at the Institute for Emerging Issues, we find ourselves engaged in a number of conversations surrounding key issues in our state. We read, research and discuss a myriad of topics and often share our takeaways internally. Here’s a look inside a unique topic of discussion from IEI’s Assistant Director Pat Cronin.

Institute for Emerging Issues Assistant Director Pat Cronin

Even as another generation of college freshmen arrive on North Carolina’s campuses this month, let’s not forget that our state’s economic future is linked to our ability to help those already in the workforce find a way to move up. As the myFutureNC commission reported earlier this year, our economy could lack trained workers for some 400,000 jobs in 2030 if we don’t make the right changes now.

While some of this gap will be met by encouraging more of today’s children to get a post-secondary credential, an important number must come from helping today’s workers get additional education and training.

How heartening, then, it is to see the NC Community College System unveiling a marketing campaign this week aimed at doing just this. The effort targets people who want to make a change in their (economic) lives: to earn more money, to go back to school, to find a rewarding career or to be their own boss. Kudos to them for tackling an important barrier to reaching today’s workers: finding information about opportunities to make a change.

But this is just one obstacle that keeps workers from returning to classrooms or, having started, from completing their training. Others include: paying for that training, child care, transportation, health care, and other types of daily living expenses.

With these in mind, I was truly inspired this week to spend time with groups from five communities who are working to solve these challenges. In Greensboro, Rocky Mount, Beaufort, Cleveland and Mecklenburg counties, public and private sector groups are coming together to move people into the workforce and from lower-paying jobs to higher paying ones.

Is your community looking for innovative ways to overcome these barriers and to help workers and their families move up the economic ladder? Want to learn more? Please join us in Charlotte on October 15 for the next Emerging Issues Forum.