Reboot Charlotte: Fixing The Labor Skills Mismatch
Charlotte technology companies are rebooting the workforce taking a page out of Europe's handbook.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Even with unemployment so high, employers say they can't find the right workers. A ManPower Group survey says 52% of companies are having trouble finding mission-critical positions, up from 14% in 2010.
The companies who are hiring need new talent in the technology and energy arenas and are struggling to find it.
"Years ago there was a big shift. Everybody needed to have a liberal arts education so that you could be a critical thinker and solve problems," says Kenny Colbert of The Employers Association. "Now we're moving back toward the more technical orientation because somebody has to do the work."
"They're looking for someone who can troubleshoot that has core skills in specific areas like PLC programming, pneumatics and circuit analysis," says Chad Ray, Dean of Science, Technology, Engineeering and Mathematics at Central Piedmont Community College.
For many years there was a disconnect between what companies like Siemens needed out of workers and what was being taught in area community colleges. Now with apprenticeships programs partnering with Central Piedmont Community College they're able to close that gap.
"We have people who came to work here in 1969 and are still working today. 40% of our skilled labor could retire today if they chose to do so," says Siemens Energy Training Manager Pam Howze.
That's why Siemens and six other companies are part of the Apprenticeship 2000 program. Non-college track seniors who excel in math and science are hired at a plant while also receiving free tuition at CPCC, similar to Germany's dual education system.
"We want to replicate that as much as possible because most of the hiring managers went through the program when they were coming up through their career," says Howze. "We're spending approximately $170,000 per student to educate them and pay their wages while they're in apprenticeship training for the next three and a half years."
Hans Faulstich has spent over 30 years managing high-tech companies in Germany, Brazil and here in the U.S. He says in order to attract more businesses to Charlotte, apprenticeship programs must grow at a faster pace. "What was the beginning with Apprenticeship 2000 for the now seven companies, that's exactly what we have to open for the whole region.
Lowering unemployment and rebooting Charlotte as a leader in technology as much as banking.