At the very foundation of job creation and opportunities for workers and working families is education. When we invest in education and make the right decisions, we can provide folks from all walks of life with the tools they need to find success. In our part of the world, education has helped create and recreate opportunity for so many, from our youngest children to adults seeking job retraining. As our economy continues its recovery, I feel this is the right time to both invest in and highlight the ways in which education can serve as a building block in rebuilding and expanding our regional economy.
When bad trade deals sent so many of our jobs to other countries, our community colleges and university system stepped in to invest in helping to train and retrain workers. When children are born and families are expanded, many young parents make early educational opportunities a major factor in deciding where they live and in what community they raise their family. When the brave men and women of our military return home from war, we invest in them through the GI Bill and through expanding access to higher education for them and their families. This is the way we have helped to lift our people up, and now more than ever we need to protect and expand educational opportunities for all. In this economy, we need to adapt and prepare for any and all avenues to pursue to put folks back to work and bring good jobs home.
I recently met with the head of a local manufacturing company that makes high tech parts for our military. In our meeting, I was told of the rather alarming situation that they find themselves in. While they have job openings available within their company, there’s no basic infrastructure for them to go about finding and hiring qualified employees. At a time when unemployment is high and our economy is struggling, we need to do our absolute best to link together qualified applicants with these types of great companies. I’ve contacted the head of our state’s community college system to ensure that folks at all levels are aware of the opportunities that exist so we can make these connections and make them quickly.
As a former textile worker, I’ve seen firsthand the way so many of our local folks have mastered the art of making things. The ingenuity that exists here, paired with the hard work that built our area, is the precise combination our manufacturers need to find someone that can make a machine come to life and make the best possible products — in America. This will help grow our workforce and grow so many of the businesses that call our district home.
I’m working to make sure that all of our business owners and managers are working closely with our community colleges to ensure that there is a pipeline for trained and retrained workers to fit into a place of employment that I know they can succeed in. We need more American products that are made by American workers, and education serves as the best path to doing just that. In these tough economic times, it can equip our people with additional skills and environments to prepare and create the industries that we can make ours.
Last year, I took part in a graduation ceremony at a local community college in our district. As I watched the students walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, I noticed the broad range in ages of those finishing their programs. The school had graduated its largest class ever, of students ranging in age from 17-71. This speaks volumes to the education opportunities that exist right here at home, for both traditional and non-traditional students. If we’re going to remain ahead of the curve in recruiting new businesses and industries, we must remain ready and able to handle anything that can come our way.
Throughout our district, when I visit businesses small and large, I ask folks to tell me what their key to success is and how they remain competitive and they all say the very same thing — it’s the people. I could not agree more. The can-do attitude and perseverance of our hard working North Carolina families is what has enabled us to endure for so long. Paired with the world-class education that can be found in our university and community college systems, we can help train, retrain and prepare people at all ages, and from all walks of life, how to continue on the tradition of domestic manufacturing and hard work.
Whether it’s young folks just finishing high school, or former textile workers like myself, we can give our workers the tools they need to adapt to changing industries and job markets — the tools needed to be successful and survive in this often trying economy.