As part of his budget proposal, Gov. Cooper wants the state to invest $60 million in workforce training to help boost job growth.
“I want a North Carolina where people are better educated, where they are healthier, where they have more money in their pockets,” Cooper told students, faculty and staff at Craven Community College’s Havelock campus on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Cooper recommended that state lawmakers allocate $60 million in this year’s budget to set up a fund that would help college students who are close to graduating complete their degrees; cover tuition costs for students pursuing jobs in high-demand fields, such as manufacturing, information technology and health; and set up apprenticeships, paid internships and flexible employment for students.
During his visit to the college’s Havelock campus on Thursday, Cooper sat down with administrators and students to discuss the campus’s current vocational programs, toured classrooms and spoke to about 70 students, faculty and staff about his proposed workforce development fund, which would benefit the state's community college and university students.
Without a trained and educated workforce, employers won’t move to a particular state or remain there, Cooper said.
“That’s the number one thing that businesses want. It’s even more important to them right now than taxes or incentives,” he said. “They tell me constantly that they have good paying jobs, but they’re having a hard time filling them.”
Cooper’s budget recommendations will go before the General Assembly on May 16, when state lawmakers reconvene. Cooper says he hasn’t yet heard back from Republican leadership on whether or not they’ll support his proposed workforce development fund.
If the fund is included in the final budget, about $10 million would create a competitive grant program that would help employers create apprenticeships, internships and flexible employment for students.
A similar collaboration is happening at the college's Havelock campus. NAVAIR, a naval aircraft engineering firm, partners with the college and North Carolina State University to train and employ students who are enrolled in a bachelor's degree program for mechanical engineering systems.
“Their engineers are very involved in our classes. So, we’ve got a junior design class where some of their top-level managers pose as a customer for a design problem," said Bill Fortney, the program's director. "The students are giving presentations for them. They’re getting feedback from them."