North Carolina has to do a better job of educating its workforce if the state wants to land major employers like Amazon.
That’s according to Gov. Roy Cooper, who on Wednesday will outline his training priorities to grow the state’s workforce, collectively called NC Job Ready, to the NCWorks Commission in Raleigh.
Becoming one of the top 10 educated states in the country by 2025 is a goal Cooper has for North Carolina. Ensuring that workers are prepared for “the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Cooper said, is a goal that will shape his administration’s approach to education and labor policy moving forward.
“I plan to make this a central component to my term as governor,” Cooper said in an interview with the Observer Monday. “The bottom line here is that it’s going to be our workforce, our quality of life and the lower cost of living and doing business that will help us attract companies like Amazon.”
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The Seattle tech giant last month released its narrowed down list of finalists for its massive second headquarters, and while Charlotte didn’t make cut, Raleigh did. The project is expected to bring 50,000 high-paid jobs and more than $5 billion worth of investment.
Experts have pointed to the tech-savvy workforce in the Research Triangle area as a reason Amazon kept North Carolina on its shortlist.
Becoming a top 10 educated state, Cooper said, means attaining a 90 percent or greater high-school graduation rate (the state currently stands at 86.5 percent), increasing the number of children in pre-kindergarten to 55 percent (the state is currently in the 30s) and growing the portion of students with post high-school education or certification.
A central part of Cooper’s workforce education focus is partnerships between businesses, educators and legislators to ensure that quality jobs, and the training that’s required for them, are available to people who opt against attending a four-year university.
High-paying jobs that don’t require college degrees used to be prevalent in states like North Carolina, a former hotbed of textile manufacturing. Automation and cheap overseas labor has decimated the industry here and in other states. Cooper and other lawmakers plan to encourage apprenticeships and internships in high-tech manufacturing.
By 2025, Cooper noted, about two-thirds of North Carolina’s jobs will require some post high school education. “We have to be ready for that,” he said.
“We believe we can attract a significant number of advanced manufacturing jobs to our state if we have the workforce. There are a number of advanced manufacturing companies that have openings available but are looking for workers. We need to give those businesses the workers they need,” Cooper said.
Here are some of the areas Cooper’s workforce initiatives will focus on:
▪ Fostering partnerships between educators and state and local workforce development agencies.
▪ Creating easier access to job-training for in-demand skills.
▪ Promoting local workforce training opportunities, including through innovation funding.