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Regional leaders discuss a new STEM education alliance for Eastern North Carolina

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On Friday, 29 school systems and 14 community colleges met at the East Carolina Heart Institute for the first planning meeting for a new alliance that will operate at the intersection of education, professional learning, workforce development, and economic development.

The goal is to reverse the decline of the region’s homegrown workforce, according to a press release.

The new “Industry in School Alliance” is a steering committee focused on the region’s 13,000+ teachers and community college faculty as a regional workforce and, importantly, influencers of students.

  • The steering committee will invent and implement a new educator training system to create a better understanding of nearby jobs and industry clusters.
  • Teachers will work with students to increase awareness of jobs in the region, how much postsecondary education is required for those jobs, and what the salary range is for those jobs.  
  • The hope is that more of the region’s high school graduates choose to remain in the region for work and/or education. 

The morning session, moderated by former superintendent Tom Williams, brought together superintendents, community college presidents, and industry leaders on the steering committee to discuss how the alliance can bolster the region’s workforce. 

Later a VISION 2023 luncheon was held to celebrate the launch of the alliance.

Dr. Michael Waldrum, ECU Health’s CEO, dean of the Brody School of Medicine and NC East Board member, welcomed the group of 125 people.

“I am a strong advocate for bold regional solutions for large regional issues and am excited to participate in VISION 2023,” Waldrum said.

Vision 2023 featured two panel discussions. The first, moderated by Williams, included Cecilia Holden, president and CEO of myFutureNC; state Superintendent Catherine Truitt; and Jordan Whichard, chief deputy secretary of commerce.

During the education panel discussion, Holden discussed the importance of collaboration between districts, community colleges, other local leaders, and STEM East to ensure the state meets myFutureNC’s 2 million by 2030 educational attainment goal.

Truitt, who deemed 2022 the Year of the Workforce, emphasized working together to envision a better connection between K-12 education and careers.

Whichard updated the attendees on North Carolina’s positive business climate and growth, with North Carolina recently being named “State of the Year” for economic recruitment for Business Facilities Magazine. He went on to mention how North Carolina’s strong workforce is one of the main drivers for the state’s continued economic prosperity.

The second panel discussion included Senators Jim Perry, R-Beaufort, and Bobby Hanig, R-Bertie, alongside Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne.

The legislators said student education and workforce preparedness are top agenda items for this year’s legislative session. The panel also focused on potential appropriations in the upcoming session. Hanig and Perry noted how important it is for education stakeholders to remain in close contact with their local elected officials ahead of the state budget process.

Meetings will continue throughout the year to find regional solutions for the regional economy. Collectively, the alliance will chart a path forward.

Dr. Ethan Lenker, superintendent of Pitt County Schools, concluded that “it is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”


Here is more information on the NC East Alliance.

Here is more information about the STEM East Network, an initiative of the NC East Alliance.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the director of growth for EducationNC.