Region faces growing workforce development needs, study finds

Categories: Data Tags: Report, Workforce

With unemployment only beginning to dissipate across the Charlotte region, the demand for workforce development remains at an unprecedented high. In particular, there is a growing need for customized training for disconnected youth, returning veterans, and seniors and a huge demand for stronger soft-skills training.

These are among the main findings of a recent study the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute conducted for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. The study consisted of a comprehensive review of recent needs assessments conducted in Goodwill’s 18-county region surrounding workforce development in order to extrapolate the major needs and highlight the changes occurring in the workforce development sector.

Generally reserved for those of low skills and educational attainment, many more of all levels – white-collar and blue-collar, young and old – are seeking training for positions in growing industries and profitable trades. Further, the changes in workforce demand due to technological innovations and recessionary cutbacks have in turn changed the training needs within the workforce development sector.

While dislocated workers remain the largest population numerically, the study found that three more specific populations – disconnected youth, returning veterans and seniors – have a growing need for more customized training programs that utilize their strengths and supplement their weaknesses.

The study also identified a strong demand for stronger soft skills training. Employers identified this as one of the most valuable and lacking elements of training programs, noting that most occupation-specific training is obtained once hired. Also emphasized were the needs for case management, career development and specific occupational skills, which varied from county to county depending on the array of major industries.

Coordination and collaboration among service providers and area employers were also repeatedly emphasized throughout the reports. Collaboration across the system was cited as being instrumental in reducing service duplications, creating a standardized soft skills curriculum, and developing a database to track participant enrollment and outcomes. The creation and maintenance of a universal database was particularly important because it would provide a means for workforce development program and organization assessment, which is currently nonexistent.

Just over 20 needs assessments dating to 2008 were located through online research and direct contact with the area’s key workforce development organizations. Eight separate workforce development boards cover the Goodwill region’s 18 counties, as demonstrated in the map above; additionally, two regional partnerships – Competitive Workforce Alliance and NC’s Southeast – and two state Departments of Commerce offered insight as to the state of the area’s workforce development training.

While this report did not delve into quantitative research on growing industries and occupations in the various counties of the region, Goodwill of the Southern Piedmont has invested substantial resources in tracking these data through its partnership with the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute’s Charlotte Regional Indicators Partners Program. Goodwill’s web portal tracks multiple economic indicators, as well as education, social well-being and youth-related measures, for Mecklenburg County, which sits at the heart of its region.

Click here to read the full report.

Hannah Guerrier wrote this article while a graduate student working at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute in 2011/2012.

Hannah Guerrier