by Eric Ginsburg

Monitoring the economic pulse of the Triad by Eric Ginsburg

Chamber emphasizes education, job program

The Greensboro Chamber of Commerce touted the importance of education at its annual State of Our Community luncheon last week, attended by hundreds of business and community leaders. With Guilford County Schools Superintendent Mo Green, NC A&T University Chancellor Harold Martin and several business executives, the luncheon focused on ways to train workers and students to fill highly specialized niches in the economy. According to a survey of 136 businesses in the area including most major employers, the chamber reported that 79 percent said they had jobs that were difficult to fill with local recruits, often turning to outsourcing or recruits from other places. In order to compete in a knowledgebased economy, speakers said, job applicants would not only need highly technical training, but also improved “soft skills” like communication and critical and analytical thinking.

Bill Jasper, the CEO of Unifi, which has its corporate office here, assured the audience their factories were highly automated and nothing like Norma Rae, a film based on Crystal Lee Sutton, a union organizer in a North Carolina textile mill. Jasper said that most of their skilled recruits were NC State University graduates and said the high school graduates they hire regularly lack the necessary soft skills, and said turnover was high.

Chamber President Deborah Hooper rounded out the event by announcing the success of the One Job for Greensboro program. The initiative, spearheaded by District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade and based off of a program in Atlanta, aimed to collect pledges from local businesses to hire at least one person with a citywide goal of 1,000. The city released a list of the participating companies and pledges reached 1,560, but it was unclear if any causation between the initiative and the number of jobs pledged.