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Improving our Region's Talent Pipeline

Improving our Region's Talent Pipeline

Improving our Region's Talent Pipeline 

Summary by Katie Loovis on 4/11/2022

The Workforce Challenge 

Nearly every industry in our state is struggling to recruit and retain talent. The pain points are especially pronounced in health care and information technology - two industries with strong current and projected growth and many jobs in high demand (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and NC Department of Commerce, 2022). What's troubling is that these growing industries are offering top jobs in our region (called five star jobs, which is a rating based on wages, projected growth rate, and projected job openings) and these jobs are going unfilled.

Right now in Orange County, employers are recruiting more than 1,600 nurses and 286 software developers (Burning Glass, 2022). 

Career Training Programs

The university and community college have launched new short-term educational programs to help meet employer demands and better connect students and re-careering adults with five star jobs (see UNC's Cyber Boot Camps and Carolina Across 100 "Our State, Our Work" initiative, and Durham Tech's Back to Work initiative). Other innovative career training initiatives have emerged as well, including the Summer Careers Academy and Hope Renovations. While these programs align classroom with career, they will not close the projected workforce gap without major replication and expansion.

Our region needs a focused and collaborative effort to better manage our talent pipeline. 

Talent Pipeline Management

Talent pipeline management requires regional cross-sector collaboration, good data, and an employer-led approach. Done well, talent pipeline management closes the skills gaps in the short-term and culminates in long-term strategies for backfilling, upskilling, career pathway development, and succession planning.

A community with a well-managed talent pipeline has residents connected with good paying jobs, employers operating at full capacity, and a community poised with increasing competitive advantages. 

The Role of the Workforce Boards

The state's 23 workforce boards are designed to serve this talent pipeline management function. Essentially, the workforce boards do two things: they convene representatives from industry, education, labor, the community, and government to: 1) manage the millions of federal and state dollars that fuel our local workforce development programming (think NCWorks Career Centers and dislocated worker training programs) and 2) facilitate strategic planning for successful regional workforce development.

Workforce boards are critical to successful talent pipeline management. 

Workforce Study 

A recent study conducted by the North Carolina Department of Commerce identified areas that could improve the state's current workforce development board system, namely ensuring each workforce board is positioned to serve a regional laborshed. The Governor’s NC Works Commission reviewed the study findings and adopted the recommendations to better align the state's workforce system.

According to the study, there are opportunities to improve NC's workforce development board system through better alignment with community colleges and the regional laborshed, integration with economic development activities, and modernization to meet the every-changing needs of employers and the regional economy. 

The Triangle Region

Orange County is currently part of the Regional Partnership Workforce Development Board, which has Orange County partnering with counties west and south of The Research Triangle Region (The Triangle), including Alamance, Montgomery, Moore, and Randolph Counties. The study findings surface important questions about this current arrangement and what might be possible if Orange County were to align with counties in its region and laborshed, The Triangle. Traditionally, The Triangle is defined as Orange, Durham, and Wake Counties, but there are many federal and state-recognized governance structures for The Triangle, including but not limited to the following:

  • The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recognizes The Triangle with five counties in the Durham-Chapel Hill Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and nine counties in the Raleigh-Durham-Cary Combined Statistical Areas (CSA) (one of ten CSAs and 17 MSAs in the state). None of these counties are in our current workforce board and the CSA is served by four different workforce boards.  
  • The NC Department of Commerce recognizes The Triangle with fifteen counties in the North Central Prosperity Zone (one of eight Economic Development Prosperity Zones in the state). Again, none of these counties are in our current workforce board alignment and the zone is served by six different workforce boards.
  • The NC Council of Governments recognizes The Triangle with seven counties in the Triangle J Council of Governments (one of 16 regional councils in the state). Only one other county is in our current workforce board (Moore) and the TJCOG is served by three different workforce boards. 
  • The NC Community College System serves The Triangle with two community colleges, Durham Tech (Orange and Durham Counties) and Wake Tech (Wake County). These three counties are served by three different workforce boards.

The Triangle should work together to manage our shared talent pipeline and deliver a high performing workforce system for our employers. 

Next Steps 

The Chamber's Government Affairs Committee is taking a good look at the study findings, Orange County's workforce opportunities and challenges, regional employer needs, and current talent pipeline management practices. Doing so, the Committee is asking what strong regional alignment looks like and how that could unfold. The Committee welcomes your feedback. We know that our employers need a workforce development system that works for them. In the meantime, access immediate support for recruiting, training, and retaining workers

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