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Report: NC isn't preparing enough workforce-ready adults

North Carolina is no longer on track to reach its goal of having 2 million people with a certificate or degree by 2030.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina isn't preparing enough high school students or adults to work in the state's growing industries, according to a new report from MyFutureNC, a nonprofit that focuses on the state's educational attainment goals. 

As of 2021, North Carolina had an estimated 1,555,543 adults ages 25 to 44 with a high-quality degree or credential. That number is 31,000 people below where the state needed to be on target for its goal of 2 million by 2030, the report shows. 

The state has 1.2 million people who do not have a certificate or degree. 

"We simply don't have enough students that are going to make it to and through to get to 2 million," Cecelia Holden, president and chief executive of MyFutureNC, said Monday. 

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MyFutureNC is asking for two policy changes it says will improve outcomes for students statewide, according to WRAL-TV in Raleigh. 

First, it wants annual career planning for all middle and high school students. Next, MyFutureNC is requesting funding for certain job training at no cost to adults who qualify. The training would be short-term and wouldn't typically qualify for financial aid at a college. 

Charlotte community leaders agree that the state's educational system needs to change. 

“Our schools need to become more responsive to industry needs and be able to pivot a little more quickly to meet those needs," LaToya Faustin, executive director for She Built This City, said. 

With the current worker shortage, building an employment pipeline is more important than ever. Charlotte nonprofits, like She Built This City, are helping young people look at different career paths with hands-on training. 

 Faustin said an already trained workforce is a top priority for companies. 

“We have to be able to show that we can produce a worker that can learn, and that can stay -- whether technology, construction, whether it's banking, we have to show we can produce that, to attract more jobs to our economy,” Faustin said.

For many students, one reason to get a college degree is to have a chance to make a good living. But for some, it's just not feasible.

“Employers are realizing we don’t necessarily need specific credentials, what we need is skill and ability, and drive to do this job," Samantha Story, director of brand experience at Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, said. 

From construction to advanced IT, the Goodwill Opportunity Campus offers many career development services.

“We can provide credentials and in-demand industry skills and connections to employers at no cost," Story said. 

Several state leaders spoke during an event Monday, including House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican from Cleveland County, and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. During his comments, Cooper argued to fund more educational opportunities for students, starting before pre-Kindergarten. 

Cooper also called for better pay for North Carolina's teachers, telling the group people need to earn more money to work in education, especially early childhood education, where the median income is $20,000 per year. 

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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