By MARK EZZELL, NC STEM Community Collaborative

RALEIGH, N.C. – The state commission responsible for aligning education efforts to the state’s changing economic needs recently presented their interim report to the General Assembly, and the report made several recommendations designed to make sure the state can fulfill demands for a workforce with skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Key recommendations of the Joining Our Businesses and Schools (JOBS) Commission included piloting high schools with a STEM focus, and the creation of a statewide STEM goal set by the Governor’s Education Cabinet to close the gap between available science, technology, engineering and math related jobs and the number of students with the skills and credentials necessary to fill them.

Lt. Governor Walter Dalton, the JOBS Commission chair, believes strongly that continued economic development depends on changing the way North Carolina educates students.

“North Carolina is leading the nation in re-defining the traditional concepts of high school and college,” said Dalton. “The JOBS Commission is looking at innovative ways to educate our children, encourage businesses to engage and become partners in the educational process, and prepare our students for 21st century jobs. Our state’s future economic prosperity rests on our continued investment in market-driven education initiatives.”

Additional legislative proposals for the JOBS Commission would:

  • Add state Board of Education members as non-voting ex-officio members of the commissions for each of the seven economic development regions
  • Add additional operating flexibility for innovative high schools
  • Allow for the creation of five-year programs within existing four year high schools
  • Create a North Carolina School of Biotechnology and Agriscience at the Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center in Washington County
  • Provide funds for planning and developing pilot programs, including a language and global competencies early college high school in Cumberland County and a Grand Challenges of Engineering Early College High School in partnership with N.C. State University.

Each of these proposals will be considered by the General Assembly in the coming weeks.