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Charlotte USA Schools, Colleges, Government Work Together

Innovative initiatives draw millennial talent and show students career pathways

By Teree Caruthers on April 26, 2018

Charlotte, NC
Charlotte / Courtesy of Ryan Case

As the Charlotte USA economy continues to grow, the 16-county region’s schools, colleges and universities, government agencies and economic development organizations are working overtime to deepen the pool of talent.

Innovative training and apprenticeship programs, marketing campaigns and recruitment efforts ensure employers have access to a steady supply of workers with the skills they need.

Millennials Flock to Charlotte USA Region For Good Jobs and Quality of Life

Great Jobs, Close to Home

In Cleveland County, N.C., for example, a marketing initiative called Charlotte’s Backyard targets millennials in hopes of attracting young talent to the county’s thriving manufacturing sector.

“Our community has had tremendous success recruiting advanced manufacturing operations to our community – 75 in the last 12 years – but have been struggling with providing those companies the talent needed to sustain their operations,†says Kristin H. Reese, executive director of the Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership. “We found that because of our low unemployment rate, along with a general lack of awareness of the opportunities available with local manufacturers, this was preventing us from maintaining a strong talent pipeline.”

Reese’s team developed a strategic plan to rally stakeholders and develop a talent attraction campaign geared specifically to share the benefits of living and working in Cleveland County and provide millennials with the resources and information they need to make the move to a career in manufacturing.

“We developed a brand that used messaging that played up Cleveland County’s proximity to Charlotte encouraging millennials to ‘Find your dream job in Charlotte’s backyard,'” Reese says. “And since we know jobs are the biggest selling point for talent, we worked to change perceptions of manufacturing jobs, highlighting the fact that these jobs come with good pay and great benefits and range from marketing to machine operation.”

Charlotte USA Welcomes the World

Building a Diverse Workforce

In Cabarrus County, N.C., recent workforce efforts have centered around increasing the number of women in what have been considered nontraditional careers. The Go Bold! program encourages women to consider careers in fields such as logistics, manufacturing, automotive and construction. Several employers in the region have signed on including Corning, S&D Coffee and Tea, and Hendrick Motorsports.

“Go Bold! was created in response to industries expressing their desire to encourage diversity and that they welcome the opportunity for women to apply,†says LeeAnn Nixon, existing industry project manager for the Cabarrus Economic Development Corp. “The Go Bold! message is delivered by creating awareness. We are engaged with high schools, our community college and resource partners who have the opportunity to interact with women of all ages.”

The CEDC also works with Cabarrus County Schools and Kannapolis City Schools to ensure their leadership, teachers and students are aware of the county’s industries, future workforce needs and potential career opportunities for women.

Manufacturing Advantages in Charlotte USA Attract Foreign Investment

On the Job Training

In fact, a hallmark of the Charlotte USA region’s workforce development success has been the ability to direct students toward local career paths at a younger age.

Apprenticeship Charlotte, coordinated by Central Piedmont Community College, introduces high school students to local careers by giving them hands-on experience at local businesses even before they graduate.

CPCC is also a facilitator of the Apprenticeship 2000 program, a regional program for high school juniors and seniors that helps prepare students for high-paying jobs in industries such as advanced manufacturing and health care.   

Charlotte USA Offers Ideal Infrastructure Network for Successful Industry

“Anything that we can do to give our students real-world experience, we want to do – whether it’s partnering with an organization or creating a program ourselves,†says Jeff Lowrance, public information officer and special assistant to the president at CPCC. “It really does take a partnership between the educational institutions and the business and industry. We all have to work together to ensure that those talent pipelines are in place. We especially need the support of employers to help us develop apprenticeship programs, work-study programs and internship programs so our students are ready to hit the ground running the first day of their new careers.”

The college also offers dual enrollment through the state’s Career and College Promise program, allowing students to simultaneously earn high school and college credit.

“Students can come here and enter specific career tracks or a college transfer track and earn college credits tuition-free. It gives them a head start,” Lowrance says. “Then after they complete high school, they can come to CPCC full time, and they’ve already got those credits that they’ve earned. It allows them to complete either their diploma or two-year associate degree program quicker and move more quickly into the workforce.”

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