By Luke Bollinger
A crowd of more than 200 economic developers, educators and business leaders gathered at Grandover Conference Center today for the unveiling of a Triad talent alignment strategy that seeks to develop the region’s workforce to match industry needs over the next 10 years.
The strategy represents over a year’s worth of work to understand where the Triad’s workforce has been, where it’s at and where it’s going, in order to better train the Triad’s workforce.
Some of the highlights of the study showed the Triad, since 2007, saw a net decline of 60,000 jobs, but has added 50,000 jobs since the recession. The largest industry clusters in terms of jobs are health care, retail, entertainment and back office. The study also showed the region can expect labor shortages in industries such as health and biomedical, manufacturing and production, engineering and professional services.
And demand for health care professionals is expected to be the strongest through 2026, with an expected 15,000 new jobs in the field during that time.
Penny Whiteheart, executive vice president of the Piedmont Triad Partnership, addressed the crowd, rolling out a six-goal strategy developed in conjunction with the project’s steering committee and consulting firm Avalanche Consulting.
Whiteheart said the six goals will be implemented over a decade, but today’s rollout focused on three broad goals to be implemented within the next year and a half.
Goal one will be to ensure employer engagement in the Triad is coordinated, consistent and results-oriented. To achieve this goal, Whiteheart said, three sector councils are expected to be established by the end of 2019 to target specific industries. Those partnerships, which will consist of industry leaders in the region, will focus on collaborating with institutions to better align workforce development to their needs.
Whiteheart told Triad Business Journal the first two industry councils will likely focus on the health care and advanced manufacturing industries, but how quickly industry leaders are able to move forward on the partnerships will ultimately determine which industries will first establish their own councils.
The end goal is to have four industry councils established, which will likely entail an individual focus on four broad industries driving growth in the region: health care; manufacturing and advanced manufacturing; transportation and logistics; professional services and back office.
Goal two of the three goals to be implemented over the next year and a half will be re-engaging populations within the workforce that are either unemployed or underemployed. To accomplish this goal requires a strategic communication campaign to increase awareness of the opportunities for career advancement and to highlight and promote the value of post-secondary training and education for the workforce.
And goal three will be increasing awareness of the Triad as an attractive place to live, work and play. The crux of accomplishing this goal is developing a talent attraction and retention website that will serve as a central landing point to connect the region’s talent to employment opportunities. This type of website, Whiteheart said, is already being utilized in the Triangle and Charlotte area, and, in addition to attracting talent, can also serve as a marketing tool to land companies interested in moving into the region.
Triad Business Journal has previously reported the six goals developed from the workforce study, but up until now has not had specifics on a timeline of how and when the goals will be implemented. Click here for the full list of goals.
Other speakers at the event included PTP President Stan Kelly, HAECO Americas CEO Richard Kendall, Piedmont Triad Regional Council Executive Director Matthew Dolge and Action Greensboro Executive Director Cecelia Thompson.
Chris Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, was also in attendance. Chung spoke with TBJ about the role EDPNC plays in helping the Triad land projects by directing companies that are looking to expand to the Triad area. Chung noted that though the Triad’s workforce and lower business costs keep the region competitive, it often suffers from lack of out-of-state name recognition compared to areas such as Charlotte and Triangle.
But, as noted by PTP President Stan Kelly in front of the crowd of attendees, the Triad and central North Carolina in general have the assets to be the next logical place of growth for the state.
“If we do a better job of telling our story, our workforce numbers will grow,” Kelly said.
In addition to the PTP and Action Greensboro, the project was funded by economic development agencies across the Triad, including the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, Winston-Salem Business Inc., the High Point Economic Development Corp. and others.