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The universities in North Carolina s Research Triangle have spent significant time
advancing the region s pipeline to employment by finding ways to better train the
workforce and retain talent.
The role that higher education plays in economically developing a region was a main
topic of discussion for dozens of upstate South Carolina leaders visiting the Raleigh-Durham
The group of business, government, education and nonprofit leaders is in the Research
Triangle through Friday as part of the 2017 Intercommunity Leadership Visit organized
by the Spartanburg and Greenville chambers of commerce. A primary goal of the trip
is to bring back ideas to Spartanburg and Greenville that might help strengthen this
area s own growth and development.
Kathleen Brady, vice chancellor for external relations and partnerships at the University
of South Carolina Upstate, said an important role of higher education institutions
is making sure they deliver programming that responds to the needs of employers.
It s so stimulating for me as a university person to be among several tier-one universities
in the Raleigh and Durham region, Brady said. USC Upstate is our region s university
when it comes to developing the workforce.
With around 85 percent of USC Upstate graduates choosing to stay primarily in the
Upstate, Brady said the college has to be acutely responsive to workforce needs. It
s one of the university s No. 1 priorities, she said.
Brady was with the group that visited the campus of North Carolina State University
in Raleigh on Thursday to learn more about how universities and other organizations
can collaborate to grow talent as it relates to workforce development.
Leslie Rand-Pickett, director of graduate career services with the department of computer
sciences at N.C. State, said the university helps connect area employers with students
by developing a plan for the students based upon employers recruitment needs.
Tech talent has been one of the reasons that our area has been targeted for development
in the recent past, and I ve been able to help supply some information about our graduates,
she said. Then we certainly work to develop those students to be the talent that the
employers want to hire.
Pamela Thorpe-Young, director of external affairs at North Carolina Central University
in Durham, said another important piece for universities is working with as many businesses
and organizations as it can throughout the region.
For us, it s all about collaboration. That s how we forge ahead, she said. We re
very intentional and strategic about with who we partner. We re in the business of
training the workforce.
Thorpe-Young said the university figures out what employers are looking for in terms
of talent, and then aligns students with the skills they need in order to fill those
The strategy has proven successful, as N.C. Central retains close to 80 percent of
its graduates in Durham County, she said.
City and county leaders also have stepped up to the table to work with universities
to prevent brain drain in the Research Triangle.
Wake County Economic Development, in partnership with the Greater Raleigh Chamber
of Commerce, Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Economic Development,
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, Research Triangle Foundation and the Research
Triangle Regional Partnership, has begun a proactive talent initiative called Work
in the Triangle. The initiative s goal is to showcase the region as one of the top
sites for talented professionals.
Higher education and the economic development community have really done a great
job of working together to identify how we can leverage our strengths, the clusters
we want to grow and then the partnership opportunities for that, said Jennifer Bosser,
founder of Work in the Triangle and the senior business retention and expansion manager
with the city of Raleigh. I think that s really been our secret sauce we ve really
had a targeted, cluster industry strategy.
Bosser said when a company moves to the community, Work in the Triangle provides it
with information about area industries, schools, parks and quality of life, essentially
marketing the region to the company and its future employees.
The city of Raleigh also is commissioning a labor study that involves a survey of
employers. The study will look at a dozen different business sectors and the soft
skills needed in order to fill any employment gaps, Bosser said.
Henry Giles, president of Spartanburg Community College, which has five campuses across
Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union counties, said he picked up a few ideas during the
visit to N.C. State on how SCC could be more proactive in terms of regional workforce
development. Giles said he s learned that partnerships are essential between businesses,
industry and education.
Sometimes we tend to operate as an island to ourselves and tend to think we know
all the answers, but we don t, he said. I m very focused personally toward Spartanburg,
but we should be looking more regional. We need to sell companies on (our region).