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NC State Extension

Workforce Development

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Individuals in North Carolina communities are facing loss of income, need for new job skills, lack of broad band access/knowledge of uses of the internet, economic related stress and more. N.C. Cooperative Extension has a presence in every county, and personnel with knowledge of the issues in the community.

This page contains a list of resources related to workforce development, business skills, and employment resources for individuals and Extension agents alike to gain the knowledge they need to improve their capacity to achieve both individual and community wealth.

Watch this video and read the article from Ask the Expert.

What is Workforce Development

Workforce development is a form of economic development that focuses on building worker skills. It encompasses both enhancing skills of employees within a business or organization and creating a pipeline of new talent for local business. Workforce development, therefore, involves connecting employers with existing or potential employees in order to strengthen economic opportunities within a region. This connection is made through a variety of programs and networks.

Workforce Development Programming at N.C. Cooperative Extension

N.C. Cooperative Extension has a variety of programs that increase job skills and is well known for programming that targets youth and the agricultural sector. However, Extension and both land grant universities offer trainings beyond youth and agriculture. For example, Tourism Extension has developed a curriculum for customer service trainings for the hospitality industry. NC State Industry Expansion Solutions also offers an online course in customer service training that is suitable for professionals engaged in engineering, manufacturing, healthcare, government, construction, education, and other professional services.

NC State’s College of Education also has tremendous resources available regarding workforce training opportunities, as does the Center for Urban Affairs and Community Services.

Soft skills, like communication, listening, and attitude, are one of the key attributes employers are looking for in new hires.

In terms of regional economic development, the CREATE BRIDGES program, offered through Extension’s Community and Rural Development programming, is an economic development initiative designed to support business retention and expansion efforts of the retail, tourism, accommodation, and entertainment sectors. Strategies to support workforce development for these sectors are highlighted in the CREATE BRIDGES program.

State, Regional, and County Resources

As the statewide workforce system, NCWorks provides free services and programs to businesses in North Carolina. With more than 80 Career Centers across the state, in addition to an online hub, NCWorks’ extensive network of workforce professionals understands the specific labor force, training opportunities and challenges in your community. They can simplify the process of addressing your employment needs. Specific workforce areas served by NC Works include recruiting services for employers, trainings, and apprenticeships for job seekers, and consultations regarding farm labor needs.

Employers can train employees through different programs that are designed to improve the skills of workers.

On-the-Job Training programs help employers train individuals for a position. The program reimburses companies for up to 50 percent of the employee’s wages during the time of the training.

Incumbent Worker Training grants reimburse companies for the cost of training their workers, helping to improve the skills of employees and the company’s competitiveness.

Apprenticeships prepare individuals for an industry through a combination of classroom instruction and On-the-Job Training.

Customized Training is offered through the state’s system of 58 community colleges.

At a community level, a local Workforce Development Board can be appointed by local elected officials and charged with planning and oversight responsibilities for workforce programs and services in their area. In North Carolina, 23 local boards are responsible for the following:

  • Developing local plans for the use of Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act funds
  • Oversight of the local service delivery system
  • Coordinating activities with economic development entities and employers in their local areas

The membership of the local Workforce Development Board is comprised of a variety of community leaders, including representatives of both the private and public sectors, including industry and business, higher education, economic development, public assistance agencies, and nonprofits. The NC Association of Workforce Development Boards provides networking and resources to local boards.

Regional Councils of Government  work with their local Workforce Development Boards to link employers, economic developers, and job seekers to ensure a qualified labor force in communities throughout the state. They have signed an inter-regional cooperative agreement that allows them to cross regional boundaries to provide services across the state.

Job Seekers can access up to date information about openings in their region by clicking on the NC Works website.

Skill-Specific Resources

North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership

The North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP) provides manufacturing extension services that enhance the productivity, innovative capacity and technological performance of North Carolina based manufacturing firms. They also work to strengthen the global competitiveness of small- and medium-sized manufacturers.

To be innovative global competitors, U.S. manufacturers require an adaptable workforce with broad skills. Manufacturers with an efficient and effective workforce have reduced turnover, improved customer service, created more new product ideation and patents, shortened cycle times in problem-solving, and decreased liability costs. NCMEP partners support the state’s mission to ensure a high-quality labor force for today’s advanced manufacturing and knowledge-based industries.

NC State Industry Expansion Solutions 

Industry Expansion Solutions (IES) is the engineering-based, solutions-driven, client-focused unit of NC State University. Its broad portfolio and deep industry expertise help organizations grow, innovate, and prosper. Its extensive partnerships with business, industry, education, and government generate a unique culture of collaboration that provides access to cutting-edge expertise, research, and technology.


For Agricultural Workers Seeking Jobs in North Carolina  (NC Department of Commerce)

Pesticide Trainings

NC Farm School

Farmers in Transition Finding a New Career

Federal Resources

In 2021, USDA Rural Development published a Resource Guide for Rural Workforce Development. The guide highlights four key assistance types necessary to building a stronger rural workforce:
1. Workforce development planning
2. Infrastructure and equipment financing
3. Industry and employer engagement, entrepreneurship and local business development
4. Education, training and apprenticeship

A resource matrix on page 10 of the guide organizes USDA funding opportunities by
customer and assistance type. A list of additional federal resources that complement USDA funding opportunities is provided on page 16 of the guide, additional USDA resource guides are available on page 17 of the guide.

As part of the Investing in America’s Workforce collaborative, the Federal Reserve System conducted a survey in 2019 of 121 metro areas to identify “opportunity occupations” across America that do not require a 4-year degree. These occupations are listed for 6 metropolitan areas in North Carolina. The collaborative recommends that workforce development efforts be reframed and reimagined as investments, instead of as social services, to America’s labor force. The collaborative goes on to say:

“Investing in workforce development can bolster the equitable and efficient use of resources, leading to more successful outcomes for individuals, more viability for businesses, and more regional economic growth.

Working together affords businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, and philanthropic organizations a more efficient way to rethink policy and investments, attract new resources, and improve economic mobility for workers. In addition to revealing new funding sources, partnering can leverage existing investments for even greater impact.”

This collaborative has also recently published a downloadable book which examines how well-structured and effective workforce programs and policies can result in better economic outcomes for individuals, businesses, and communities.

Extension Workforce Development Programming

A recent study of Extension’s role in Workforce Development efforts examines a rich list of innovative programming developed by Extension through land grant universities nationwide.