Tech Talkin Govs, Part VII: NC, NH and OR focus on education, workforce

March 16, 2017

Educational initiatives continue to dominate in state of the state, budget and inaugural addresses, with governors in North Carolina, New Hampshire and Oregon all acknowledging its importance in the workforce development sphere and the future competitiveness of the states.

North Carolina

Gov. Roy Cooper gave his first state of the state address to the North Carolina legislature Monday evening, reminding the General Assembly that, “Our constitution mandates that we work together to make North Carolina better…” He called the state of the state “promising” and the state itself “welcoming,” and immediately called for the repeal of HB 2, which he said has damaged the state. He laid out plans for what he called “common ground solutions,” one of which was education.

“When I’m recruiting a business to come here - to your legislative districts, the first thing they ask is whether North Carolina has the workers skilled enough to fill the jobs they create.

“Improving education is an area where we can find common ground. We have to measure our progress and hold ourselves accountable. That’s why I’ve laid out aggressive goals to make North Carolina a Top Ten Educated State by 2025 – emphasizing early childhood education, increasing enrollment in pre-kindergarten, improving our high school graduation rate and increasing the percentage of adults with a higher education degree.”

“In my talks with business owners, I hear time and again that they have job openings, but can’t find workers with the skills necessary to fill them. We know the problem and we have the answer: educated workers with high-tech critical thinking skills, earned at our high schools, community colleges and universities.

“To give people in the middle class more opportunity to afford higher education, let’s pass a workforce program we call NC GROW - Getting Ready for Opportunities in the Workforce. It means free community college — a scholarship to cover last-dollar tuition and fees for recent high school graduates to attend a North Carolina community college.

“To earn it, young people have to make good grades and apply for already-existing scholarships, loans and grant programs. It’s an idea that Republican and Democratic governors alike have supported in other states. We can make it a bipartisan reality here in North Carolina.

“Yes, there’s a price tag on these investments in education. But now that the economy is rebounding, it’s time to make smart, strategic investments in our people.”

“One of the most important steps that the legislature can take is to fund our education budget. An educated workforce is a competitive workforce, and companies are in a global search for talent. Let’s take advantage of our intellectual capital.

“There are other strategic steps we can take to make our state more competitive – funding to prepare mega-sites to attract large-scale, advanced manufacturing. Workforce technical training that is more nimble and customized to what companies say they need. Encouraging more people to get into high-paying trades, like plumbing and electrical work, or medical research and high tech engineering. Incentives to bring the film industry back to North Carolina. Initiatives to harness the innovation and entrepreneurship happening right now at our world-class universities and in our cities. Encouraging renewable energy which is already bringing good jobs to our state. Providing help for small business. And a focus on rural broadband access, which is a must for economic success in our rural communities. We cannot leave them behind.”

New Hampshire

Gov. Chris Sununu delivered his budget address Feb. 9, noting that his budget proposal cut nearly $500 million from state agency budget requests without any layoffs. He focused on workforce development, calling it a critical issue in his talks with business owners as he traveled the state.

“It is an indisputable fact that New Hampshire’s workforce is a critical issue.

“With this in mind, I am moving our economic development division to a broader department – a new department of Business and Economic Affairs, where we can better coordinate ALL of our business-centric agencies. We need to unleash the potential of our economy to spur job growth and provide better opportunities for both businesses and workers throughout the state. I have tasked Taylor Caswell of the Community Development Finance Authority to help build a collaboration of partner agencies to make sure everyone is working together on our shared goals.

“In addition, there will be a Small Business Advocate as part of this department, whose emphasis will be to represent the interests of New Hampshire’s small business owners before state agencies, ensuring the voice of New Hampshire’s small business community is heard, loud and clear, during the design and discussion of any new rules, regulations or policies.”

“Our higher education system is a critical part of ensuring New Hampshire students have an opportunity to learn beyond their high school years and enter the New Hampshire workforce with real world skills.

“Too often, I believe we think of post-secondary education in terms of institutions. That’s old school thinking. My budget approaches post-secondary education in terms of students and outcomes. The University and Community College Systems of New Hampshire are key to these effort[s] and we will continue to make investments in our partnership.

“In doing so, my budget proposes a significant increase to the operating budget of the Community College System, which is doing a great job in providing a gateway to New Hampshire’s workforce development. My budget proposes $10 million in capital investment into community college infrastructure.”

“Also, today I am proud to establish the Governor’s Scholarship program, with $5 million to directly assist high school students to attend colleges and universities, or workforce training programs of their choosing, right here in New Hampshire. We have to understand not every student travels the same workforce path and we need to build a system that provides the flexibility to work within their lifestyle.

“This scholarship program is designed not to help 10, or 20, or even 100 students, but at least 1,000 students each year and will open workforce gateways like never before.”

Oregon

Gov. Kate Brown, who assumed the governorship two years ago but was just elected into the office in November, used her inaugural address in January to address the state’s looming $1.7 billion shortfall and other pressing matters.

“As I have traveled across Oregon, countless employers and business owners have told me that they've struggled to find the employees to meet their needs.   One way we can help them is to make Columbia County – with an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent – the national role model for 21st century workforce training.”

“…[W]e have reallocated resources at Business Oregon and partnered with the private sector to build the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center.  It's a place where high school graduates will learn the technical – and sought after – skills that successful businesses need; skills that will enable them to find good-paying jobs as welders, electricians, and builders.”

“We must continue to search for similar innovative programs that are good for both the economy and the environment. That's why I've invested in the Rural Entrepreneurship Development Initiative – or REDI.  This is a program to help rural entrepreneurs get the capital and expertise they need to build their small businesses into thriving economic engines. 

“I've also invested in the technologies that inspire these entrepreneurs. Unmanned aerial vehicles and cross-laminated timber aren't just the hot tech trends of the moment.  They are brilliant innovations that can't grow without space and trees – two items that rural Oregon has in abundance.”

New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregontech talkin govs