WRAL Tech Wire
July 23, 2021
By Dr. Henry McKoy
WRAL TechWire (TW): What’s there to like about this plan—and why?
Dr. McKoy: The plan, in and of itself, does lay a strong foundation for a very important component of North Carolina’s future success. This conversation is not new, as workforce has been a part of the dialogue for a very long time. In fact, that is one of the key reasons why we are seen as such a desired destination for companies.
Thus, I think recognizing that is important. I also believe the reference to wanting to increase “equity” in the workforce development plan is also important. This stated goal hasn’t always shown up in past plans.
The plan speaks to the need to be conscious of important areas like affordable and workforce housing, which is part of developing a workforce. The plan also touches on the need to increase broadband across the state, in places—specifically rural—that struggles with that. If broadband—high speed and robust broadband—can spread across our state, then it does open up possibilities for economic growth, which can positively impact the local workforce development.
TW: What’s NOT in the plan—but needs to be addressed?
Dr. McKoy: It would have been great to see a bit more about an investment strategy—How bold will this plan be? What kind of resources will be leveraged? What kind of innovative approaches will be leveraged to move the needle on this work?
I would have liked to see more discussion, or any discussion, on the idea of an “equitable investment structure” that is related to tax and incentive tools. Currently, the state incentives programs really favor—almost exclusively—non-minority firms.
If not de jure, then de facto.
This creates and expands already incredible racial wealth gaps in the state, but it also suppresses the strengthening of the overall diversity of the workforce. The plan does speak to supporting more minority businesses, but it doesn’t speak specifically on the idea of leveraging equitable investment and policy to help scale those businesses. For example, if we not just think about creating more black businesses in the state, but growing them into large entities, then that will have a more possible impact on workforce development than any other program that you can think of. It would strengthen the ecosystem we seek to naturally develop talents from an array of communities. The plan touches on it – but could go deeper and further.
The plan has a comprehensive nature to it. So, it does hit on many of the right themes. And I also believe that equity is showing up in the plan in ways that haven’t been as pronounced before.
That is a great thing.