Action Greensboro, together with the Chamber of Commerce, serves as the city’s primary economic and community development group. Formed in 2001, Action Greensboro is comprised of six local charitable foundations. In collaboration with business, higher education, and municipal government, Action Greensboro works to strengthen Greensboro’s economy and ensure the continuation of its excellent quality of life.
Action Greensboro’s plan of work has evolved since its founding to move with the tide of community needs. While most known for major downtown developments, such as Center City Park, the Greensboro Downtown Greenway and Union Square, Action Greensboro has made major investments in K-12 education, economic development and workforce alignment.
Since 2000, The Cemala Foundation has invested in the fundamental work that Action Greensboro undertakes. Understanding that the community’s ability to nurture, attract, and align a well-educated, skilled workforce is essential to maintain our city’s growth, Action Greensboro adopted a plan of work focused on supporting talent development in 2018. This plan includes the following Initiatives:
Gateway University Research Park
- Since 2013, Cemala has provided a combined $1.5M grant towards the construction of Gateway University Research Park’s Union Square Campus.
- The Union Square Campus is a 7-acre project among Cone Health, Guilford Technical Community College, North Carolina A&T State University, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The idea for Union Square and its implementation come from Opportunity Greensboro, and offshoot of Action GSO.
- With Phase I of the project completed in Summer 2016, classes began at Union Square in Fall 2016. The facility provides state-of-the-art laboratories and clinical settings for nurses and healthcare providers.
Triad Talent Alignment Strategy
Action Greensboro recently collaborated with others to develop a Triad Talent Alignment Strategy. Findings and plans include:
- Commuting Patterns:
- The Greensboro-High Point metro is both an exporter and importer of talent and home to approximately 348,000 jobs. More than 213,000 of these jobs are filled by Greensboro-High Point metro residents. Additionally, employers in the region import 135,000 additional workers from beyond the Greensboro High Point metro. At the same time, there are more than 100,000 Greensboro-High Point metro residents that work outside of the region.
- Six occupational clusters represent more than 70% of workers living in the Greensboro-High Point metro labor shed—Back Office, Hospitality, Medical, Production, Logistics, and Personal Services. There are at least 60,000 workers employed in each of these clusters. Other leading occupational clusters include Education, Social Service, and Mechanics. Each of these three clusters employs at least 20,000 workers living in metro labor shed. During the past five years, the number of workers in metro labor shed increased in all but four occupational clusters. The Medical, Hospitality, and Logistics clusters posted double-digit employment gains.
- Among local employers, the availability of both soft and hard skills within the Piedmont Triad workforce are the two most widely cited barriers to finding new employees. Piedmont Triad employers reported relatively little consensus regarding the availability of specific skills among their local labor force. While manufacturing companies emphasized the need for environmental/hazmat and general maintenance skills, engineering firms require workers with the ability to read blueprints and a familiarity with lean six sigma process improvement. When it comes to soft skills, however, there is far more agreement on the skills necessary for workers to thrive in today’s business climate—good critical and analytical thinking skills, the ability to work well in teams, solid attendance, and sound problem solving skills.
- The selection of hard skill choices presented to local employers can be grouped into six categories—Business/Accounting/Finance, Engineering/Project Management, Information Technology, Various Healthcare & Life Science, Various Manufacturing, and Other skills. Various Manufacturing skills are the most frequently difficult to find hard skills within the Piedmont Triad. Engineering / Project Management Skills were cited by 21% of surveyed firms, a slight dip relative to 2013.
- 60% of surveyed companies indicated that they had experienced difficulty in finding Critical & Analytical Thinking skills in the local workforce during the past 12 months. Nearly half of firms reported experiencing difficulty in finding workers with sufficient Interpersonal/Teamwork skills as well as workers with Good Attendance. During the past 12 months, more than 40% of Piedmont Triad employers faced difficulty in finding Problem Solving Skills among the local workforce.
- Across the board, a higher proportion of Piedmont Triad employers cited difficulty in finding workers with soft skills compared to 2014. In 2017, 60% of surveyed firms reported difficulty finding workers with sufficient Critical Thinking & Analytical skills. In 2014, the figure was just 41%. In 2017, nearly half of employers cited difficulty in finding workers with Good Attendance or Interpersonal/Teamwork skills. In 2014, less than 25% of employers cited difficulty finding such workers. In 2017, a higher percentage of local employers cited greater difficulty finding workers with skills in Leadership/Managerial, Verbal Communication, and Customer Service compared to 2014.
- Educational attainment levels in the Greensboro-High Point metro labor shed are slightly lower than the North Carolina average. Approximately 27% of workers living in the labor shed possess a bachelor’s degree or higher level of educational attainment.
- Statewide, nearly 29% of workers have a bachelor’s degree or higher level of educational attainment. Conversely, high school is the highest level of educational attainment for more than 37% of workers living in the labor shed, slightly higher than the statewide average. Workers in the labor shed are also slightly older than the North Carolina average, though these differences in age composition are minor.
Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development through the Chamber of Commerce
- The Cemala Foundation has a long-time interest in entrepreneurship dating back to the formation of Action Greensboro in 2000. At that time, one of Action Greensboro’s primary interest areas was entrepreneurship and Cemala supported the Piedmont Triad Entrepreneurial Network. Our interest is in expanding the culture of innovation throughout Greensboro and Guilford County.
- Since 2009, Cemala has contributed almost $800,000 to the Chamber for entrepreneurial and workforce development initiatives including Entrepreneurship Connection and Launch – both designed to foster entrepreneurship and small business development.
- Thanks to the renewed health of the regional and national economy, Piedmont Triad employers are expanding. More than 80% of surveyed Piedmont Triad firms anticipate hiring additional workers during the next two years. Collectively, surveyed firms are projected to hire more than 6,000 additional workers. These new jobs will encompass a variety of industries and skill types, though demand is expected to be highest for professional and skilled labor positions. If recent local labor trends continue, however, many employers may find it difficult to secure the talent necessary to expand their operations. More than half of surveyed companies, for example, believe it has become more difficult to find qualified workers during the past 2 years.
- Employers rely on a variety of training and learning opportunities to improve the skills of their existing workforces. More than 80% of surveyed companies who reported offering some form of training or other learning opportunities for employees rely on on-the-job training. More than half of companies reported using internship programs. In general, companies would like to offer more training and other learning opportunities to their workers but lack the time and money to do so.
- The Greensboro-High Point metro labor shed encompasses nearly 600,000 workers. Since 2011, the Greensboro-High Point labor shed has added approximately 40,000 workers.
Next Steps & Regional Goals:
- The plan is driven by six core goals for talent alignment, development, and attraction. Multiple strategies and tactics support each goal:
- GOAL 1: The Piedmont Triad is recognized as an attractive destination to live, work, and learn.
- GOAL 2: Employer engagement in the Piedmont Triad is coordinated, consistent, and results-oriented.
- GOAL 3: K-20 students have access to and are engaged in world-class STEM and CTE Education.
- GOAL 4: Experiential learning and career services in higher education are expanded.
- GOAL 5: Discouraged populations are engaged in the workforce and supported in upskilling opportunities.
- GOAL 6: The Piedmont Triad has programs that support innovation and entrepreneurship