Author: Anita Brown-Graham

Education and Skills for Tomorrow: Is Your Workforce “Future Ready”?

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Earlier this month my colleague, Dave Brown, published a blog hinting that we, at ncIMPACT, are working on a Future Ready Communities Dashboard. Our current series of blog posts focuses on “What it means to be a Future Ready Community.”

Future Ready Communities will be successful because of their vibrancy, their interconnectedness, and their fluid structures for causing positive human collisions. They will be built on and for great ideas. These communities will lead based on their brain trust, and they will in turn become a magnet, attracting other good minds. The relational effect is clear: Good minds make a community great, and great communities attract good minds.

The benefits of a well-educated population extend far beyond community economics. Moreover, good minds must not be defined only by levels of educational attainment. (We all know a number of highly degreed people who we would not put in the good minds category!) That said, as ncIMPACT designs its Future Ready Communities Dashboard, we will be laser focused on the ways to capture the existence of a local labor market that reflects the educational attainment levels required to meet the needs of jobs of the future. Why? Consider the following. According to the North Carolina Economic Report, published by the NC Department of Commerce in June 2017:

  • North Carolina is projected to add more than 550,000 jobs by 2024.
  • Occupations requiring a master’s degree or higher are projected to experience the greatest percentage increase in employment.
  • Jobs with low educational requirements (occupations requiring no post-secondary or college experience) will have the slowest rate of growth, although they are projected to produce the most job openings as there are more of them today. These openings will be due mostly to replacements rather than new growth.

The NC Department of Commerce goes on to explain that one way to capture the changing nature of jobs is to divide existing occupations into whether they involve primarily manual or cognitive activities, and whether those activities are primarily routine or non-routine. Since the mid-1990s, non-routine jobs have been growing as a portion of total jobs, while the share of routine jobs has fallen. In particular, non-routine cognitive jobs (sometimes thought of as “knowledge jobs”) have increased from 29 percent of jobs in 1994 to 38 percent in 2016, while routine manual jobs (“blue collar jobs”) have fallen from 34 percent to 23 percent. Based on employment projections through 2024, non-routine jobs are expected to continue their growth as a portion of the job market.

Source: Current Population Survey via NC Department of Commerce

The entire country is grappling with the changing nature of work and the resulting implications for educational and skills levels. Recently released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, in our economic expansion from January 2013 to December 2017, job opportunities increased for college-educated Americans. Their share of the U.S. labor force climbed from 33.6 percent in January 2008, to 36.5 percent in January 2013, to 39.9 percent by December 2017. North Carolina’s local leaders are watching these numbers carefully. For many of them, becoming Future Ready will necessarily involve improving the educational levels and workforce skills of their local labor market.

Our Future Workforce: The Rise of the Individual

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This is the fourth and final in a blog series on drivers of change for Our Future Workforce. The other three posts focus on demographics, automation, and business model changes. Our next series will use case studies to offer insights into local and regional efforts in North Carolina seeking to respond to these drivers. Please offer suggestions for case studies here

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Our Future Workforce: The Rise of New Business Models

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This is the third in a blog series on the drivers of rapid and profound changes in who will work and where, when, and how work will be done in the coming years. The first in the series focuses on demographic drivers and the second on automation.

Dramatic industry model changes are forcing companies to reactively reposition their business models or face failure. Take the following example: Black Friday is dead. This was the early, and erroneous, call by bored local news beat reporters as they stood in empty parking spaces outside stores or pointed to people leaving malls with no purchases in hand the day after Thanksgiving. For some retailers, the news coverage may foretell a death sentence, but not for all. Retailers that continue to thrive will do so because they are agile enough to respond to the reality that the reporters missed the point. Black Friday is not dead. Black Friday has moved! Continue reading

Our Future Workforce: Driven by Technological Disruptions

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This is the second in a blog series on drivers of rapid and profound changes in who will work and where, when, and how work will be done in the coming years. The first post on Our Future Workforce can be found here.

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Our Future Workforce: Demographic Drivers

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The nature of work is changing rapidly and dramatically. How we prepare for the who, when, where, and how work is done will challenge our state’s leaders and the institutions that support our workforce. To fully understand what lies before us, we must first examine the scale of the drivers of change. Our research at ncIMPACT suggests there are four primary drivers: demographics, disruptive technologies, new business models, and the rise of the individual. This blog post focuses on the first of these, and highlights some important demographic changes in North Carolina.

North Carolina is growing. But according to demographic analysis by our friends at Carolina Demography, much of this growth follows a trend of clustering in the state’s existing population centers, and will continue to do so over the next two decades. As people increasingly reside in those areas, strong job growth tends to concentrate there, too.

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Does Prekindergarten Push against the Curve of Community Change?

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What happens when a room full of county commissioners, school board members, and early childhood practitioners spend the day diving deep into the data on preschool education with the state’s leading child development researchers? They start digging into how prekindergarten programs for four year olds push against the curve of community change.

On September 25, 2017, the Thinking Big for Small People group gathered in Chapel Hill for a day of training and reflection. The broader context for this gathering was the North Carolina General Assembly’s decision to increase funding for the state’s standard pre-K program delivered in each county, known as “NC Pre-K,” in its budget for the next two years. Program attendees spanned a continuum of familiarity with pre-K. Some came from communities with a great deal of curiosity, but no consensus about whether they would expand pre-K. Other communities had already set a goal for granting universal access to pre-K. Continue reading

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