LAURINBURG — Representatives from Richmond Community College, Richmond County Schools, Scotland County Schools and local industries convened on RichmondCC’s Scotland County Campus for an annual meeting to discuss solutions for current workforce challenges.
The meeting, which is part of RichmondCC’s Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment required for federal Perkins funding, brings the group of community leaders together on a regular basis to ensure the next generation of workers are being properly trained for local employment needs.
“We’re not here for a gripe session,” said Dr. Devon Hall, Dean of Business Technologies at RichmondCC. “We’re here to discuss the current challenges we’re facing, but also focusing on what the solutions to those challenges might be. We want to put in motion plans today that are going to yield benefits in years to come.”
The group of around 40 attendees was split into three groups focusing on Engineering, Business and Health Sciences, with industry representatives strategically aligned with each focus group. During the break-out sessions, they identified challenges specific to each field of work, with common themes resulting from the separate conversations.
Employability skills, often referred to as soft skills, was reported as a major issue for each group, with the pandemic and resulting quarantine exacerbating a decline in employees’ work ethic and professionalism.
“It’s also having a ripple effect on those employees still willing to work, because a lot of them are leaving due to becoming burned out from having to do more on their jobs to cover for those who are unwilling to work,” said Dr. Jonathan McRae, Career and Technical Education director for Scotland County Schools.
During a recap session at the conclusion of this year’s meeting, it was decided that next year, students and parents would be invited and encouraged to attend to provide feedback on ways the transition from school to work may be improved.
“We need to view the students as being our customers,” said Richmond County CTE Director Greg Norton, while encouraging everyone present to consider that while deciding how programs should be shaped.
Other suggestions for improvement included asking recent alumni to visit classrooms to talk to students about their transition into the workforce, as well as increasing internship and apprenticeship programs.
“These students hear from us about it every day, but it’s likely going to resonate with them more hearing it from someone closer to their age,” said McRae.
The next meeting of the CLNA group will be in early May 2023 with members of the public invited to attend. An exact time and date will be announced at a later time.