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Congresspeople and staff visit workplaces to see efforts to close the skills gap in action.

Congresspeople and staff visit workplaces to see efforts to close the skills gap in action.

On August 14th North Carolina Congressman Mark Walker toured the Machine Specialties, Inc. facility in Greensboro, North Carolina. The company is a leading contract machining and metal finishing specialist that designs and manufactures parts for the aerospace, military, and medical industries. The visit was an opportunity for Rep. Walker to meet local youth apprentices and other employees who are training or upskilling for jobs in the machining industry.

While on site, the congressman and his staff spoke with workers, apprentices, and leadership from the company as well as representatives from Greensboro Chamber of Commerce about the importance of supporting industry-led sector partnerships and other workforce development efforts, including apprenticeship and other work-based-learning opportunities like the ones offered by Machine Specialties, Inc.

Fifty-five percent of North Carolina’s labor market are middle-skill jobs which require more training than high school, but not a college degree. But only 44 percent of the state’s workers are trained to the middle-skill level.

Sector partnerships are collaborations that bring together stakeholders connected to an industry – including multiple firms, local colleges, labor, education and training providers and others– to address skill shortages while developing talent pipelines of skilled workers to meet future demand. These partnerships promote industry growth and competitiveness and improve worker training, retention and advancement by developing cross-firm skill standards, career pathways, job redefinitions, and shared training and support capacities that facilitate the advancement of workers at all skill levels.

It’s critical that policymakers understand how important these sector partnerships are to the local economy and workforce so that policymaking at the federal, state, and local levels supports what’s working.

This was one of several site visits that happened in August, all coordinated by National Fund for Workforce Solutions and Business Leaders United.  Industry-led sector partnerships from states throughout the country hosted their representatives, explained how the partnership worked for business and local economic development, and explained what could be done on the policy level to support these partnerships and foster them in other areas. 

Congressman Walker’s visit was facilitated by the Triad Workforce Solutions Collaborative, a program of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce. The partnership consists of business leaders, educators, workforce development service providers, and funders, working to develop a pipeline of skilled workers in the Greensboro region.