Regional employers ID top health and life sciences talent needs

January 14, 2016
Regional life sciences employers identify their talent needs at a January roundtable.

Demand for talent in the $72 billion health and life sciences sector continues to soar, while many Durham youth struggle to find employment.

Made in Durham business, education and workforce development partners joined colleagues from across the region Jan. 14 to identify opportunities to remedy that through career pathways.

The Health and Life Science Employer Roundtable featured nine employers discussing their talent needs with more than 40 representatives from the region’s three workforce development boards, five community colleges and 11 school systems.

Employers identified a long list of in-demand positions and the credentials each requires. Jobs in the sector are becoming increasingly technical, employers said. But the sector also boasts 12 of the 15 fastest-growing jobs in the region that require a two-year degree – making them an attractive option for youth and young adults seeking a fast and affordable route to a rewarding career.

Regional education and workforce partners will use information gleaned from the roundtable to begin developing NCWorks-certified career pathways that tightly align with employers’ labor needs. These pathways will help guide and prepare regional youth and young adults for rewarding careers in the local labor market while building a strong talent pipeline for regional companies.

Made in Durham advisor MaryAnn Black, associate vice president for community relations at Duke Medicine, discusses healthcare employment needs.

Made in Durham advisor MaryAnn Black, associate vice president for community relations at Duke Medicine, discusses healthcare employment needs.

“The open dialogue is essential,” said David G. Smith, senior recruiting partner, talent acquisition, for Biogen Idec, one of the participating employers.

Career pathways have existed for decades, but the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which took effect July 1, puts much greater emphasis on the development of regional career pathways and provides funding to develop them.

Career pathways focus coursework, credentials and support services on a clear sequence of educational experiences that better prepare workers for high-demand jobs. Certified pathways assure employers that students who followed the sequence are well qualified for their positions.

The NCWorks Commission, which implements WIOA in North Carolina, established in May the criteria and standards by which regions can receive NCWorks certification for career pathways.

That timing proved fortuitous for Made in Durham, the community partnership of educators, business, government, nonprofits, youth and young adults who are creating an education-to-career system that better equips Durham youth for career and life success and builds a stronger local workforce.

Made in Durham partners, including City of Durham Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Durham Public Schools, Durham Tech and staff of Made in Durham’s nonprofit  organization, had already been working together to identify and develop career pathways in high-growth industry sectors. NCWorks’ mandate for regional pathways provided the framework to join forces with their counterparts across the labor market, adding greater depth and breadth to the initiative.

Regional partners are currently working through the process to create certified career pathways for three high-growth areas: health and life sciences, information technology and advanced manufacturing.

For more information, contact Malinda Todd, senior employment program coordinator for the City of Durham’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, or (919) 560-4965 ext.15220.


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Made in Durham is a community partnership of educators, business, government, youth-serving nonprofits and young people mobilized around a shared vision that all of Durham’s youth will complete high school and a post-secondary credential and begin a rewarding career by the age of 25.
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