N.C. governor touts importance of workforce education

Wake Tech President Stephen Scott (tan jacket) and Gov. Roy Cooper (center) participate in a discussion about preparing residents for high-skilled jobs available in the state. (Photo: Wake Tech)

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy is “a perfect example of what works.”

Cooper visited the Cooperative Innovative High School to unveil his new jobs initiative, called NC Job Ready, which focuses on education and skills training, employer guidance to ensure training is relevant and innovative programs like Vernon Malone CCA.

“We need more places like this all over North Carolina,” Cooper said, “and the business community needs to know that it wins with this type of program.”

Vernon Malone CCA was established in 2014 through a partnership between Wake Technical Community College, Wake County Public Schools and Wake County government. It provides students in grades 9 through 12 with a solid high school education along with technical training in one of seven programs:

  • biopharmaceutical technology
  • collision repair
  • cosmetology
  • multi-trades technology
  • nurse aide
  • simulation and game development
  • welding

Graduates are prepared to continue their studies at a university – or they can apply the credits they’ve earned toward an associate degree, certificate or diploma program at Wake Tech.

Cooper toured technical classrooms at Vernon Malone, including simulation and game development and cosmetology. He told students that many companies across the state can’t find the skilled workers they need.

Wake Tech electrical instructor Steven Hawkins agreed: “The average age of electrical contractors is 58, so the field is wide open.”

“Community colleges are committed to training a skilled workforce,” said Wake Tech President Stephen Scott. “Wake Tech will continue to explore innovative partnerships and work with business and industry to make sure we produce the highly-qualified workers our region needs.”

Three core principles

Cooper’s initiative is built on three core principles: skills and education attainment, employer leadership, and local innovation to take great ideas and apply them statewide.

“Business leaders tell me time and again that they have job openings but can’t find workers with the right skills,” Cooper said. “A better trained workforce can help businesses grow and give workers new opportunities.”

Each of the three principles is fleshed out a little more in an outline from the governor’s office. Skills and education attainment, for example, includes career awareness to provide career information to show which jobs are growing around the state and the training programs that can prepare residents for those jobs.

The plan highlights promising programs that help in that effort, such as the state’s 27 employer-led pathways, which are the result of a collaboration among employers, pre-K-12, community colleges and local workforce teams.

The governor’s office also noted finding ways to help residents overcome barriers to higher education beyond tuition, such as childcare, transportation, the cost of books and materials, and internet access.

The plan also emphasizes the role that employers must play, such as providing more work-based learning opportunities like internships and apprenticeships.

“That starts with employers getting involved in their local schools to increase students’ career awareness and understanding of the jobs available now and in the future,” the outline said.

About the Author

Laurie Clowers
is vice president of communications and marketing at Wake Technical Community College in North Carolina.