MEDIA RELEASE: Credentials, technical certificates help close NC’s skill gap, boost economy

MEDIA RELEASE: Credentials, technical certificates help close NC’s skill gap, boost economy
The state’s workforce development system plays crucial role in delivering skills training, education

RALEIGH (Aug. 16, 2011) – Credentials, or sub-baccalaureate certificates, help improve skill levels of North Carolina workers while also providing a boost to workers’ incomes and the economy at large, a new study finds.

North Carolina’s workforce will require higher educational levels and skills training in the future, a study released this morning by the NC Budget and Tax Center finds, and it is critical that the state maintain its workforce development system in order to deliver this training and education to the state’s workers. Community colleges, Workforce Investment Act programs, and community-based and apprentice programs all play crucial roles in structuring workforce policy and shaping the lives of North Carolina’s workers, the study finds.

Post-secondary education has been typically regarded as the best pathway to joining the middle class, and more than half of North Carolina jobs will require some form of post-secondary education by 2018. Yet according to the study, less than 35 percent of the working-age population has an Associate’s Degree or higher.

Statewide initiatives have been enacted to increase educational attainment, the study points out, but these plans require better data collection and clearer identification of the range of credentials that can improve worker and economic outcomes. The No Adult Worker Left Behind bill set a target for an increase of 40 percent to the percentage of North Carolinians who earn associate degrees, two-year credentials, and baccalaureate degrees. Yet such a target would require that an additional 58,000 working-age individuals attain degrees or long-term credentials.

This target does not take sub-baccalaureate certificates into account, but such certificates and credentials can play an important role in achieving success in the workplace, the study states, and could increase the likelihood of earning an additional degree in the future. In turn, North Carolina lawmakers should maintain workforce development programs to evaluate the quantity and quality of credential programs, and help move the state closer to its target for increased educational attainment.

“North Carolina’s policymakers are right to focus on establishing a goal for education and skill attainment among the state’s workforce,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center and author of the study. “An important effort must be made to put into place measurement systems that can make that target real as well as investments in programs and policies that can make it realizable.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Alexandra Forter Sirota, director, NC Budget & Tax Center, alexandra@ncjustice.org, 919.861.1468; Jeff Shaw, director of communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (mobile).