A well-trained workforce is the state’s top recruiting tool to bring companies to North Carolina, says Gov. Roy Cooper.
So it wasn’t coincidence that he visited Wake Technical Community College on Thursday to announce his budget proposal, which will include $60 million for the NC Job Ready Fund to train and grow the state’s workforce. He also said it would include a $30 million financial aid program to provide free training for high-demand fields, and $20 million in grants to help students complete their degrees when faced with unforeseen circumstances. In addition, $10 million will help employers address their training needs and employee skill gaps.
“We are in a constant race with innovation to make sure we keep our workforce at the level that we need to attract these good-paying jobs,” Cooper said at a press conference. “We know that the job market is constantly changing and you here at Wake Tech are continuing to have to meet those changes with input from employers.”
Cooper will present his budget proposal to the General Assembly when it convenes later this month.
As with many community colleges, workforce is a central part of Wake Tech, said its president, Stephen Scott.
“Community colleges play a vital role in making sure that employers have the skilled workers they need to grow and thrive,” he said.
Before the press conference, Cooper heard from college leaders, students, alumni and local employers in a roundtable discussion in the college’s baking and pastry arts kitchen.
College trustees Chair Tom Looney and WakeMed CEO Donald Gintzig told the governor how Wake Tech is leading the way with employer partnerships. Looney said these partnerships are vital to provide work-based learning opportunities for students, curriculum input to keep programs relevant, and technology upgrades to ensure that students learn the skills they need.
Candis Parker, a 2013 construction management graduate, has been working at Balfour Beatty construction company since interning there as a student. She said in her field, workers need to be ready to hit the ground running.
“Employers are looking for workers who are job ready,” she said.
Cooper also took a tour of hands-on training in skilled trades, including plumbing, HVAC and welding. In the welding lab, student Sarah McClain demonstrated how the college is keeping up with advancing technology with new robotic welding equipment.