RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – There are around 19,000 open tech jobs in the Triangle alone. There are about 16,000 in the Charlotte area. That’s just a slice of the hundreds of thousands of jobs employers are trying to fill.

“And so, what the pandemic has revealed to us is that workforce has changed yet again,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt.

Truitt believes students have to start much earlier in learning about what careers exist and how they get there. That can range from what requires a certification, a two-year, or a four-degree.

“That leads to careers that are high paying, rewarding, and have opportunities for advancement,” she said.

The announcement from Boom Supersonic is an example. The company chose the Triad to build the next generation of high-speed aircraft.

“It’s a great opportunity to have the local school systems and community colleges, like they did for Toyota, to come together and say here are how many jobs we need, here’s what we need, and put the systems in place to deliver them in a predictable fashion. That’s what’s going to position North Carolina with a competitive advantage going forward,” said N.C. Chamber President and CEO Gary Salamido.

Truitt and Salamido spent Thursday explaining their goals during a webinar. Both agree the troubles started before the pandemic but intensified rapidly in the last two years. Truitt outlined four key goals:

  • Prepare the future workforce with the skills and experiences required to be successful, productive citizens, providing a robust talent pipeline that powers the state’s economic development efforts.
  • Ensure that all students have access to post-secondary pathways that align with growing, high-wage careers that meet local, regional, and/or statewide industry demand for talent.
  • Assist all students and parents in making informed plans and decisions about future education and career opportunities
  • Ensure that all students engage in career exploration and real-world learning activities throughout the K-12 journey.

Truitt said a more focused approach to workforce development will take educators, parents, and policymakers.

“I think that it involves somewhat of a paradigm shift for policymakers of what we value in a high school diploma and what that high school diploma really means a student is able to do when they graduate,” she said.

“We have a testing and accountability model at both the state and federal level that prioritizes achievement and growth, and that’s all. And we need to look beyond those two measurements to think about other ways that schools provide other quality education to students.”

Students also need to be prepared for what is now a vastly different environment than what their parents faced when they entered the workforce.

“You’ve got to be able to go in, get a job and learn,” Salamido said. “But that job is going to change or it may go away quickly, so how are you able and how adaptable are you at getting in and out of the system to stay competitive?”