RALEIGH – North Carolina’s businesses may be in jeopardy due to the pandemic’s impact on the labor force, according to the NC Chamber Foundation.  But a new initiative launched by the foundation “will focus on advancing the quantity and quality of the state’s workforce,” the organization notes in a statement shared with WRAL TechWire.

The initiative, the Institute for Workforce Competitiveness, will launch in March, and was announced at a virtual event held this morning by the NC Chamber Foundation.

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“The pandemic has clearly exacerbated workforce challenges for North Carolina businesses,” the statement reads.  “Employers across industry sectors call the need for skilled talent their number one priority.”

In many regions across the state, employers are posting record numbers of job openings.  In the Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan statistical area, for example, the number of job postings has increased by more than 90% since February 1, 2020, according to a recent analysis of job posting data conducted by Indeed.  That’s enough to rank the region third overall for the acceleration of open, posted roles, Indeed found.

It’s not just the Triangle, either.  According to Indeed’s data set, Greensboro-High Point ranked 8th when it came to the rate of job openings since February 1, 2020, and the Charlotte metro ranked 19th.

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Yet, while labor demand is increasing, and economic development projects such as Toyota’s new $1.29 billion electric vehicle manufacturing facility in Randolph County, the proposed $500 million Boom Supersonic manufacturing plant at Piedmont Triad Airport, and projects like the $2 billion FUJIFILM Diosynth-Biotechnologies plant in Holly Springs, among others, are projecting to add thousands of high-skill, high-wage jobs to North Carolina’s economy, enrollment in the state’s community colleges and public school systems is down, according to the NC Chamber Foundation.

“The pandemic may recede in intensity but its effects on employee and employer behavior and incentives will be lasting,” the statement from the NC Chamber Foundation reads. “Both businesses and the education system are already starting to adapt.”

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The work of the new Institute for Workforce Competitiveness

Though North Carolina and the nation face long-term workforce challenges, according to the NC Chamber Foundation, they are not insurmountable.  The newly formed Institute for Workforce Competitiveness will spotlight solutions, convene and connect experts, and train practitioners in talent pipeline management, the NC Chamber Foundation said.

“The states that successfully address these challenges will be best positioned for economic competitiveness,” the statement reads.  “The NC Chamber’s Workforce Readiness Committee and Strategic Initiative Board on Education and Talent Supply will facilitate this process.”

According to the NC Chamber Foundation, the newly formed Institute for Workforce Competitiveness will also “identify issue focus areas” and collaborate with North Carolina’s Community College System and the Department of Public Instruction, including examining “alignment between the state’s workforce development and education systems.”

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“Developing and sustaining a first-rate education and talent development system that is effective and agile will ensure that North Carolina can consistently produce a competitive, diverse, world class workforce,” a dashboard on education and talent supply on NC Chamber Foundation’s website reads.  The dashboard, which has tracked key metrics pertaining to education and talent and has displayed them in an interactive format since 2017, shows North Carolina ranks 24th in the country when it comes to educational attainment of its workforce, with 32.3% of the population possessing a high school diploma or higher.  Overall, the education index ranks North Carolina 27th.

That matters, the dashboard states, because “post-secondary educational attainment helps workers secure jobs with higher than average wages.  A well-educated and trained workforce is also attractive to businesses wanting to expand or relocate.”