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Working toward a 'a sustainable, educated, and committed workforce'

A note from us

Hi, Nation and Hannah here with this week’s edition of Awake58. If you missed our last newsletter featuring a recap of the August State Board of Community Colleges’ meeting, you can find it on our website.

NCCCS President Jeff Cox and former system president Thomas Stith participated on a panel on the intersection of business and education last week… Elected leaders have continued to visit community colleges across the state… We celebrated the first day of school for our K-12 friends…

As we launch into the latest Awake58 newsletter, we must begin with some congratulations to our team! Our team brought in four awards at the N.C. Press Association Awards last week. Congrats to Molly and Hannah. The awards are a nice tribute to the quality of our work, which we are grateful to have the chance to do — including this newsletter! Thank you for all of the kind notes last week celebrating five years of Awake58. It has been an honor.

I also want to give a shoutout to our colleague Caroline Parker for literally riding the bus last week in Haywood County, on the first day of school for many K-12 districts. You can find documentation of her journey on our website.

Last week, the former N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) President Thomas Stith and current NCCCS President Dr. Jeff Cox participated in a panel on the future of workforce, and the recap is worth a read. I would highlight this particular section discussing the skills gap:

Cox added that sometimes employers exclude people who possess the skills they need by listing advanced education requirements.

“The more we can dig into what is the actual skill that the company needs, we can create short-term workforce credentials that match up very nicely with the specific skills,” he said. “The closer that’s a one-to-one relationship between here’s a job, here’s a student, here’s the community college that’s the bridge between that student and that job, that makes the operation seamless.”

The business community has thought a lot about such issues in recent years, Salamido said, due to the pandemic and the “great reassessment.”

“We had two and a half years of people reassessing what the next phase of their lives would be. So I think companies learned a lot, and we became better communicators. And I think our education community learned a lot and became better communicators, and we both became better listeners,” he said. “So I’m optimistic as to how the communication is going right now, and I think as we get better at immediate skills, the ability to be a lifelong learner is where the business community is looking for and identifying its talent.”

Hannah’s article provides more details.

We’ll see you out on the road,

Nattion & Hannah

EdNC reads

N.C. leaders discuss the future of workforce at UNC business school panel

As mentioned above, Hannah documented a panel discussion among various state leaders at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School focused on labor markets and higher education. In addition to Cox and Stith, speakers included NC Chamber CEO and President Gary Salamido and Sen. Amy Galey.

“We have to have a strategy to have a sustainable, educated, and committed workforce,” Stith said. “The changing economy has created a need for greater alignment between our higher education system — specifically our community colleges — our businesses, and our state policy leaders.”

Among community college leaders, nearly all (98%) believe that partnerships between community colleges and businesses are “very important” to developing stronger workforce pipelines, according to a 2022 report from Harvard Business School. That number is 59% among business leaders.

“I would argue that if North Carolina did that same survey, that would be higher,” Cox said. “But unless it’s 100% of employers understanding the value of the partnership, then we’re not really fully realizing our potential.”

There are 58 community colleges in North Carolina, meaning nearly every state resident is just a 30-minute drive from a community college.

That kind of proximity matters, Cox said.

Hannah’s write-up goes into greater detail.

Elected leaders visit North Carolina community colleges

Numerous elected officials have visited community colleges in recent months, including U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx. Hannah has the story:

North Carolina Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx visited Forsyth Technical Community College this week, adding to the bipartisan group of elected officials to visit North Carolina’s community colleges this fall.

Foxx toured the Forsyth Tech Stokes County Center, which opened in 2016 and is one of the college’s 11 locations. The tour included discussions with Stokes Early College students, trades faculty and students, and licensed practical nursing (LPN) faculty, leaders, students, and alumni from Stokes County.

The LPN program is one of the few evening programs of its kind in the state, according a release from the college, with students driving from as far as Charlotte to earn that degree.

“I’ve seen the work that schools like Forsyth Tech are doing, and I’m very impressed,” said Foxx, who previously served as the president of Mayland Community College and as an instructor at Caldwell Community College before beginning her political career.

As philanthropists and policymakers consider our health care workforce pipeline challenges, more visits to programs like the LPN program at Forsyth Tech will be in order. Hannah writes about more legislative visits on our website.

Around NC

We apologize for the formatting error that kept you from reading last week’s AroundNC items. We’ve included those here, along with a few additional updates.

From our colleagues at the Belk Center on this year’s Dallas Herring Lecture:

We are also excited to announce NC powerhouse higher education leaders Shelley White, Haywood Community College, and JB Buxton, Durham Technical Community College, will be this year’s DHL Respondents! We can’t wait to share more in the coming months. Register now for #DHL2023.

WEBINAR Opportunity from Strada Education: “How do those who attended community college perceive the value of their experience? A new report from Strada Education Foundation analyzes data from a nationally representative survey of recent community college students, including those who completed degrees or certificates and those who did not. The results reveal what was most important to them and how they believe their education has influenced their lives.” RSVP on the Strada website for the Sept. 7 webinar.

Blue Ridge Community College announced three new trustees last week. The college also kicked off their new school year with a convocation focused on a “Year of Opportunity.”

Central Piedmont Community College also has new leadership on its Board of Trustees. Sen. Thom Tillis also visited CPCC recently to discuss and tour their workforce development programs.

Johnston Community College announced “record-breaking” enrollment for the fall: “JCC enrolled 4,803 degree-seeking students, the largest number in the College’s history. That is more than a ten percent increase year over year.”

What are you seeing in the enrollment trends for your college this fall? We would love to know! Just reply directly to this email.

The Land of Sky P20 recently published an update on its progress toward the state’s 2030 education attainment goal, including updates on four counties – Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, and Transylvania. As of 2022, 60% (42,493) of Buncombe County residents had earned a degree or credential. Buncombe County still needs 14% more of its residents (or 14,910 individuals) to earn a degree or credential in order to reach the county’s 2030 goal of 74%. Check out the other updates on their website.

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has partnered with The Bernard Osher Foundation to create The Osher Scholarship Program at N.C. A&T in support of non-traditional students. Per a college release, The Osher Foundation has committed to a $50,000 bridge grant and a $1 million endowment in support of Osher Reentry Scholars who:

  • Show academic promise and a commitment to degree completion
  • Are enrolled either full or part-time
  • Are at the undergraduate level and pursuing their first undergraduate degree
  • Have experienced a cumulative gap in their education of five or more years
  • Anticipate participation in the workforce for a significant time after graduation
  • Demonstrate financial need

N.C. A&T also recently received a $100,000 grant from the Tides Foundation to offer “eight African American livestock and poultry producers in the state $10,000 mini-grants toward new technology for their enterprise as well as technical training.”

Cape Fear Community College recently shared that former student-athlete Demetric Horton has signed on with Alimerka Oviedo Baloncesto, a professional men’s basketball team based in Oviedo, Spain. Horton became a vital player on the CFCC’s Men’s Basketball team during the 2018-2019 season, the college said. He then transferred to Purdue University Fort Wayne for the 2020-2021 season, and earned his bachelor’s degree at N.C. A&T.

“We are incredibly proud of Demetric Horton’s journey from CFCC to the professional basketball arena in Spain,” said Jim Morton, CFCC President. “Demetric’s time here was marked not only by his athletic prowess but also his leadership and success on and off the court.”

The Small Business Center (SBC) at Cape Fear CC also achieved the highest overall impact in the state for business startups, per a release from the college. In FY 2022-2023, the SBC assisted in establishing 43 businesses in New Hanover and Pender Counties.

From our colleagues at The Hunt Institute: “The Hunt Institute is thrilled to announce the selection of participants for the upcoming fourth cohort of the ElevateNC: Higher Education program, set to launch in August 2023. This program is specifically designed to equip individuals with the necessary tools and knowledge to drive meaningful policy changes in the field of higher education.”

Elevate cohort members who I happen to know read this newsletter include Isothermal Community College President Dr. Margaret Annuziata; Elizabeth City State University Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gary Brown; Monica Clark from The Belk Center; Mark D’Amico from UNC Charlotte; Crystal Folger-Hawks, the program director of Surry-Yadkin Works; Perry Harker, the vice president of corporate and community education at Carteret Community College; Keisha Jones, the associate vice president of student affairs and chief diversity officer for Davidson-Davie Community College; Dr. Caleb Marsh, the dean of the Ashe Campus at Wilkes Community College; Johnny Smith, the vice president for instruction and student support at Robeson Community College; Gina Zhang, the research and data analysis manager for myFutureNC; and Dwight Miller, impact officer for the John M. Belk Endowment.

Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond officials recently joined local leaders from the Golden LEAF Foundation and Edgecombe and Nash community colleges for a discussion of innovative initiatives and collaborative practices helping meet local workforce needs. The group toured the Center for Innovation on Edgecombe Community College’s Tarboro campus.

Other higher education reads

Can the farm bill help fix underfunding for HBCUs?

Many folks may not know that the “Farm Bill” that is reauthorized every five years includes important funding for higher education institutions — including 19 HBCUs, dubbed the “1890 institutions.”

From Higher Ed Dive:

The 2023 farm bill has the power to rectify some of the existing inequities.

Some advocates have called on Congress to increase the funding 1890 universities must receive compared to their predominantly White counterparts. The 1890 Universities Foundation and the Association of 1890 Research Directors, for instance, have both called for the HBCUs to get at least 40% of what is authorized for 1862 land-grant universities.

“Of course a higher percentage would be more desirable, but 40% would at least get us down the road in terms of equity,” said Alton Thompson, executive director of the Association of 1890 Research Directors. The group is also seeking approval to use research funds to waive tuition and fees for graduate students.

The issue of waiving the state-to-federal funding match is also salient for advocates, who have tried to find ways to compel states to fully match federal funds for 1890 institutions.

Smith has proposed phasing out the waiver altogether. In the meantime, she proposes shifting the burden to the state governor —rather than the institution — for requesting the waiver from the federal government. The Association of 1890 Research Directors also supports this strategy.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.