Interim Director’s Log | May 2022
This month has seen the unofficial launch of our newest program of work focused on growing the state’s workforce. With recent support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, IEI will analyze and assess current workforce challenges and opportunities to enhance economic prosperity across the state. While several important efforts are underway to explore the workforce needs of businesses, IEI will examine the needs of the workers themselves, with a focus on underrepresented workers, to help round out the full picture of what is possible. The 2023 Emerging Issues Forum, Talent First Economics, will focus on how we can better connect these workers to jobs, engage and support them in the workplace, and provide opportunities to grow within their roles. We’ve been on the road this month engaging hundreds of key leaders in workforce discussions, including presentations to the NC Works Commission, the NC Association of Workforce Development Boards and local Chambers of Commerce, to name a few.
We’ve brought in some experts to help us better understand North Carolina’s workforce challenges and opportunities. Mike Walden, PhD, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emeritus at NC State University and President of Walden Economic Consulting, LLC, has examined our workforce trends and their current and future impact on the state. We’re also excited to announce that THE Change Agent Philip Cooper will bring his experience, knowledge and passion to the program as IEI’s part-time Practitioner-In-Residence over the next year. We also have an advisory committee helping guide the direction of the work.
After reading Walden’s report, it’s clear that finding ways to grow the total number of workers in North Carolina is paramount. We need our homegrown talent to stay, we need more North Carolinians working, and we need to attract more workers from other states and countries. We must also consider how to move the surplus labor supply in some regions to those with shortfalls, without a mass exodus of workers in our rural communities. Broadband and strong partnerships can help with that. In fact, our BAND-NC program has been in Western North Carolina helping the Southwestern Commission and Foothills Regional Commission with developing county-level digital inclusion plans. We’re also connecting rural faith leaders to tangible ideas for how they can help bridge the digital divide. Our efforts across the state are being noticed—even the U.S. Secretary of Commerce wanted to come and see what NC is doing to increase digital equity!
This summer we’ll carry out important efforts to help North Carolina stake our claim as “First in Talent.” We’ll continue to engage with stakeholders across the state and present what we are learning. We’ll identify a cohort of five community teams interested in working more collaboratively on workforce and economic development opportunities over the next year. And we’ll convene a task force to identify a set of recommendations that will help us better connect, engage, and grow more underrepresented people in the workforce. We hope you will follow our journey. #TalentFirstNC