BTC REPORTS: The Career Pathways Model - Connecting North Carolina's Workers to Skills, Supporting Growing Industries

By Allan Freyer & Sabine Schoenbach
NC Budget & Tax Center
January 2012

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • Unemployment rose from 5 percent in December 2007 to 10.4 percent in November 2011, poverty climbed from 14.3 percent to 17.5 percent over the same period, and incomes dropped to levels lower than the 1970s. At the same time, North Carolina suffered rampant job losses in relatively high-wage manufacturing industries, along with a boom in low-wage occupations paying as little as $10 an hour.
  • Industries looking to locate, remain, or expand in North Carolina are interested primarily in the strength and skill level of the state’s labor market. Unfortunately, North Carolina faces a disconnect between industry demands for skilled labor and the ability of the state’s labor market to supply these workers. Too many workers have insufficient educational attainment and industry-appropriate occupational skills. This hurts these workers’ abilities to find decent-paying jobs over the course of their careers and creates a skills and wage gap.
  • Given the rapid boom in low-wage occupations, the state is faced with a future in which too many workers become locked into low-skill career tracks with little opportunity for upward mobility within and between occupations.
  • Investing in career pathways, however, can help North Carolina avoid this lowwage future by changing the trajectory of the state’s job growth from low-skill occupations to higher-skill occupations. Defined as a series of connected education and training programs and student support services that enable an individual to secure a job or advance in a high-demand industry or occupation, these efforts create opportunities for workers to build their skills and secure upwardly mobile career opportunities.
  • This report presents case studies of three career pathways programs in North Carolina—Latino Pathways, Wx/EaST, and Pathways Out of Poverty. These three programs help close the wage and skills gap for North Carolina’s workers by creating structured training opportunities for workers in targeted industries, allowing them to build their skills and move up career ladders within those industries.
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