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An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

New Report Highlights Need For Better Preparing NC Natives For Local Jobs


Educational attainment is increasing, but in large part because of people who have moved to the region, according to the 2018 State of the South report. 

The report was authored by the group MDC Inc. in Durham, North Carolina. It said that as of 2016, about 20 percent of the state’s native-born population had a bachelor’s degree, while nearly 30 percent of its residents born elsewhere did. The report said social and economic divisions will grow if efforts aren’t made to educate members of distressed populations. It calls for more investment in education so they can compete for the best jobs.

WFAE’s Lisa Worf spoke with MDC Inc. President David Dodson about the report’s findings. Here are the highlights: 

Low-income communities in the South are being left out.

We have communities of color and low income communities who aren't currently participating in the rising tide of prosperity the South is enjoying. They are disconnected from the avenues of uplift, principally in quality systems of public education in pre-K, K-12 and higher.

The big issue is talent.

Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham and major metropolitan areas are doing well because we are importing the skilled talent we need to fuel innovation and prosperity rather than producing it. We have substituted talent recruiting for talent development. This needs to be a collective conversation. Economic developers have immediate needs, and we’re satisfying the immediate needs by hiring people who have ready-made talent often from outside. 

Talent recruitment doesn't work in underdeveloped and rural areas. Talent isn't moving into rural areas and rural places aren't producing the talent. The other place-based kind of talent desert, if you will, are in the low-income communities, deep inner cities and low-income suburbs. They are being left behind by excellent schools and community colleges.

Community colleges are probably the most critical element in this talent development ecosystem because they're regional. They cover whole counties sometimes multiple counties and they are, by mission, closely aligned with industry. 

We need to focus on collaboration. 

K-12 educators and higher education need to work hand-in-hand with economic development professionals and industries. Together, they need to map out where the employment opportunities are, and build pipelines and pathways into local communities so that we actually have the infrastructure we need to fill jobs with local people.

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.