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Workforce Credentials That Increase Employability and Wages (Blog)

Written by: Molly Gaskin

Employers need a skilled workforce, but the workforce is not always equipped for the jobs available, resulting in a skills gap. The North Carolina Manufacturing Institute (NCMI) seeks to solve the skills gap in Rowan, Cabarrus, and Iredell Counties by training students and helping to connect them with local manufacturing employers.



The Challenge

Manufacturing employers increasingly face issues around training and recruitment. Employers need a skilled workforce, but the workforce is not always equipped for the jobs available, resulting in a skills gap. In some cases, an interest gap also exists resulting from a lack of knowledge about what manufacturing jobs entail in the modern era. Postsecondary credentials such as associate degrees and certifications are valuable in the job market, improving both earnings and career access, depending on the skills earned. Sectors such as engineering and manufacturing have even higher median earnings resulting from certificates than other sectors.

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, The Overlooked Value of Certificates and Associate’s Degrees: What Students Need to Know Before They Go to College, 2020.

 

North Carolina is no exception to the increasing importance of high-value credentials. MyFutureNC, the organization dedicated to increasing postsecondary attainment in North Carolina, identified a lack of knowledge about credential opportunities and associated career pathways as a focal point in their educational attainment work. They note the prevailing narrative was a need for a bachelor’s degree, despite the variety of choices available to those who pursue other postsecondary options like certificates or associate degrees. As a result, employers struggle to find their desired workforce, with 56% of employers in the state reporting difficulty finding and hiring qualified candidates. The Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce projected the growth of jobs requiring some sort of postsecondary degree or credential would likely exceed overall job growth for the state.

 

The Solution

The North Carolina Manufacturing Institute (NCMI) seeks to solve the skills gap in Rowan, Cabarrus, and Iredell Counties by training students and helping connect them with local manufacturing employers. The partners of NCMI provide different training opportunities, from job coaching and interview fairs to hands-on technical training in the production and safety skills manufacturers need. The Certified Production Technician Course consists of 160 hours of training with a certification at the end. They also offer scholarships.

Manufacturing employees at Cardinal FG glass manufacturing company, a partner of NCMI.

 

The program at NCMI established a reputation and pipeline with local manufacturers to place students with companies and provide the high skilled workforce they need. In fact, almost 90% of the NCMI graduates find a job within only a month of their graduation. The presence of an already-trained workforce saves companies training costs and the time that training would take. NCMI also works to change the image of modern manufacturing and connect students with jobs they may not otherwise consider.

 

The Players

In 2014, the chambers of commerce and economic development organizations from Cabarrus and Rowan Counties, the Centralina Workforce Development Board, and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College formed a partnership to address the local skills gap. The Iredell County Economic Development Corporation joined the initiative two years later. Their solution, the North Carolina Manufacturing Institute (NCMI) now acts as a connector of people and manufacturers, providing pathways for students, and high-quality applicants and interns for manufacturers.

 

The Promise

The North Carolina Manufacturing Institute is one of many creative approaches to increasing postsecondary attainment in North Carolina. The Henderson County Apprenticeship program is a similar partnership between the local public schools, Blue Ridge Community College, and Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development. This program also seeks to fill the local skills gap by connecting students with manufacturers as apprentices to “earn while they learn.” In a previous episode of the ncIMPACT tv show, we highlighted the Work In Burke program, which specifically focused on the interest gap, promoting the value of credentialed careers to students and educating them on the variety of options and pathways.

Across the state, MyFutureNC promotes initiatives to improve postsecondary attainment. The organization aims to increase the number of North Carolinians holding a postsecondary degree or credential to 2 million by 2030. Their local collaboratives team has a goal of catalyzing at least one collaborative per region of North Carolina during the year 2021. Thus far, they work with the Land of Sky Regional Council Educational Attainment and Workforce Collaborative.

Source: MyFutureNC report ­­– A Call to Action for the State of North Carolina (2019)

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