Regional Workforce Analysis Launched

It is a noteworthy irony that in today’s economy, as technology takes on more and more tasks once performed by people, human factors have never been more critical. The trend will no doubt continue, which is why regional development leaders at N.C. Southeast have engaged consultants to measure the quality and quantity of labor assets in the region and assess their alignment with the evolving needs of today’s businesses.

The year-long effort was launched on January 19, 2011, with consultants from Regional Technology Strategies, Inc. (RTS) joining local and regional economic development leaders and educational partners at a kick-off in Elizabethtown. “The analysis will focus on the region’s six active industry clusters, as well as an examination of ‘knowledge jobs’,” says Chris Beacham, director of economic development programs at RTS, a non-profit research and development institute based in Carrboro, N.C. The study includes both qualitative and quantitative analyses, says Beacham, a former assistant secretary for policy and research at the N.C. Department of Commerce. “We’ll need the qualitative analysis because the numbers can’t tell us everything,” he says.

As part of the project’s qualitative segment, Beacham and his team are interviewing plant managers and industry executives in the region. The project team is also meeting with county developers, education and training officials, and other stakeholders. “One of the things we’ll be doing is ‘ground-truthing’ – talking to lots and lots of people about where the numbers make sense and don’t make sense,” continues Beacham. Key to keeping the Southeast’s workforce competitive will be the region’s capacity to constantly hone the skills of existing members of the workforce. “Re-training is becoming more and more important as the technologies behind the production process change very rapidly,” he says.