RALEIGH – More than 90% of North Carolina jobs now require some digital skills – and 44% have specific skill demands, says a new report. The state was one of two focused on by the report’s authors. (The other was Illinois.)

Here’s a look at the North Carolina labor markets and where tech skills are needed.

The Closing the Digital Skill Divide report says public investments such as the $2.75 billion Digital Equity Act, which was part of the bi-partisan infrastructure law passed in 2022, offers opportunities to narrow the gap, putting more people to work and increasing local and state tax revenues.

Inside North Carolina numbers

In North Carolina – one of two states studied in detail for the report – 91% of job postings include the “likely need” for a digital skill.

A “definite digital skills” set is required for 44% of open jobs, the data show.

“North Carolina has strong demand for workers with technology skills. In the Lightcast dataset of 2021 job postings used for this analysis,
there were almost 1.5 million postings for jobs located in the state. Among those job ads, 670,000, or 46 percent, required at least one definitely digital skill, and 91 percent required a definitely or likely digital skill. (These numbers are consistent with the national averages of 47 percent and 92 percent, respectively,” the report explains.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, foundational skills such as spreadsheets, data entry, typing, and ‘basic internet skills’ are widely required across all industries in North Carolina. But when it comes to more sophisticated skills, there are notable differences by sectors.

“For example, many job postings in the real estate industry require familiarity with Yardi software, while a surprisingly high number of ads in the retail trade sector seek people with robotics expertise. In manufacturing, employers are looking for workers with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software skills, while in accommodation and food services, Lotus Domino is in frequent demand. In the utility sector, Global Positioning System (GPS) and SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system skills are crucial.”

Inside NC Jobs Sectors

The report examines in detail three jobs sectors in North Carolina.

  • Manufacturing

Nearly 650,000 North Carolinians work in the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing workers in the state are disproportionately likely to be Black, Latino, or Asian compared to the overall workforce in North Carolina. Manufacturing workers are also more likely to have limited educational attainment of a high school diploma (or less), more likely to live in rural areas, and to have limited proficiency in English.

While roles such as CNC operator or Programmable Logic Control (PLC) technician have long required some degree of digital skills, the transformation to Industry 4.05 is driving increased digital adoption in companies large and small. Manufacturing companies today are increasingly seeking workers with expertise in areas as diverse as robotics, AutoCAD, Human-Machine Interface, data analysis, and the SQL
programming language.

One recent survey showed that the percentage of advanced manufacturing companies adopting Industry 4.0 technologies doubled between 2020 and 2021,6 a rapid rate of increase that coincided with the beginning of the Covid pandemic. In particular, the number of companies using 3D printing technology grew from 24 percent to 39 percent, and the number using collaborative robots grew from 6 percent to 22 percent.

  • Construction

Construction is a major industry in the state, employing more than 375,000 people. Construction workers in the state are disproportionately likely to be Latino or American Indian or Alaska Native when compared to the overall workforce in North Carolina. Construction workers also more likely to have limited educational attainment of a high school diploma (or less), more likely to live in rural areas, and to have
limited proficiency in English.

A recent national survey of construction industry leaders found that 91 percent reported using their smartphones daily for work purposes. Sixty-one percent said they used at least three different construction apps — such as Procore or Bluebeam Revu — for tasks such as daily reporting, safety management, Building Information Modeling (BIM) file viewing, and tool tracking.

An interview conducted by NSC with a construction company executive in a large southern state illustrates how even frontline workers’ jobs have changed to require more digital skills.

“Over the past few years, almost all of our [general contractor] customers have shifted to using digital blueprints,” explains the executive. “If we as the subcontractor notice a problem on the building site, we have to submit a Request for Information (RFI) to the general contractor to ask about the conflict.” Workers have to be able to spot a problem on site, take a photo, and immediately submit an RFI.

The shift to digital blueprints caused a cascade effect, says the executive. “We quickly realized that it meant that our frontline workers needed to have iPads and e-mail access so they could communicate with the general contractors.” It was a substantial shift, especially given that many of the company’s frontline workers are navigating English-language software programs without necessarily being fluent in English themselves and are often working on far-flung job sites with spotty or no internet access.

  • Healthcare

More than 720,000 workers in North Carolina are employed in the healthcare sector. Compared to the overall North Carolina workforce, healthcare workers are disproportionately Black, and they are also more likely to be women and to have college degrees.

While electronic medical records have been a feature of the landscape for more than a decade, the pandemic kicked other aspects of the industry’s digital transformation into high gear. Interviews and previous research conducted by NSC have highlighted some common digital skill demands on the job. For example, home health workers in the field often use tablet computers to track their hours, log patient vital signs, and communicate with higher level medical specialists about patient care.

At health clinics, reception desk workers increasingly have the responsibility of assisting patients in installing, using, and troubleshooting telehealth services. In hospitals and other institutional settings, workers in non-clinical jobs have had to adapt to more digitally driven processes in procurement and compliance.