Workforce Needs Assessment Finalized
Researchers at Regional Technology Solutions, Inc. (RTS) have finalized an exhaustive report on the Southeast Region’s vast human resource assets. The 95-page document, “Workforce Needs Analysis & Strategic Plan for the NC Southeast Region,” is the product of nearly 18 months of extensive surveys, interviews, data gathering and public forums. The analysis includes a list of recommendations for enhancing the pipeline of young workers with science, technology, engineering and math (i.e., “STEM”) aptitude; improving entrepreneurial support systems; utilizing exiting military specialists in the region’s private economy; and boosting both horizontal and vertical integration of local economic and workforce development programs and resources.
The analysis ignited noticeable enthusiasm among educational leaders in the region. “Community college presidents, in particular, have been willing to spend significant amounts of time with us in one-on-one settings and group presentations,” says Chris Beacham, principal at Carrboro, N.C.-based RTS. The report will serve as crucial background evidence community colleges need in seeking outside funding support for new curricular programs and instructional equipment. “The kind of information we now have from stakeholders is looked upon very favorably by funders that want to see institutions that have well thought-out strategies that are ready to implement,” Beacham says.
Dr. Susanne Adams, president of Brunswick Community College, explains that the research initiative and its findings have forged new and valuable collaboration between her institution and Cape Fear Community College, Bladen Community and Southeastern Community College. Each campus will concentrate curricular resources on “Centers of Excellence” that align with targeted industry clusters and draw students and trainees regionally. “This will help us spend our money wisely,” Adams says. “We can’t train everybody for everything.”
Regional collaboration among community colleges also now is yielding jointly-pursued grant opportunities. The four colleges, for example, are applying in tandem for financial support from the Golden LEAF to help fund “mid-skills” programs. “We can’t get these funds alone,” says Adams. The report also highlights the need for more seamless interaction between community colleges, K-12 school systems and four-year universities, and the need to build more “2+2” programs in the region for students to obtain bachelors degrees in engineering through institutions such as NC State University and UNC Charlotte.
Also valuable was the dialogue the regional workforce analysis opened up between educational leaders and economic developers. “That was one of the big things that came out of this,” Adams says. “This kind of dialogue will help guide how we decide what programs we need.”