Business Leaders Talk Workforce and Iredell Ready at Iredell EDC’s Industry Leaders Council
Existing industry and workforce & talent create two of the key pillars upon which Iredell EDC is founded. Committed to the growth and success of the existing businesses and industries in Iredell County, Iredell EDC regularly organizes Industry Leaders Council meetings where business leaders throughout the community can openly discuss topics and trends impacting their businesses. On November 30th, the council convened at the Career Academy & Technical School in Troutman to tour the facility and discuss what many consider to be the most critical topics of workforce development and pipeline creation. As a key component of the meeting, attendees were introduced to Iredell Ready while learning more about the considerable progress Iredell-Statesville Schools and Mooresville Graded School District have made in creating programs to prepare their students for the future in the evolving world of workforce.
Recognizing the need to cultivate career exploration, promote lifelong learning, and close the skills gap for Iredell County employers, Iredell EDC, Iredell-Statesville Schools and Mooresville Graded School District joined forces with Mitchell Community College, Centralina Workforce Development, Iredell County, and the Greater Statesville Chamber of Commerce to create a county-wide workforce initiative called Iredell Ready. Both school districts are utilizing the initiative to promote programs like Youth Apprenticeship which Todd Williams, Executive Director of Industry, Trade & Business Development for Iredell-Statesville Schools, considers key in business and industry’s efforts to build a competitive workforce. For those unfamiliar with the program, apprenticeship is an employer-driven training model that combines paid work-based learning with related classroom instruction. Upon the completion of training, participants earn state and federal certificates signifying their knowledge and skill set in a particular field.
As a part of his presentation to the ILC, Williams shared data from the NC Apprenticeship Program Survey Report stating that 85% of survey respondents agreed apprenticeships provide a net financial benefit to their business including a return-on-investment of an average of $1.70 for every dollar invested in apprentices. Additionally, youth apprentices have a 91% retention rate, dramatically decreasing turnover. The benefits are equally attractive for the apprentices as those who sign up before high school graduation are eligible for free tuition through a community college if the field of study aligns with their selected program.
Currently, Iredell-Statesville Schools has established successful programs such as Mechatronics Technician, CNC Operator, Welding, Nursing, Medical Assisting, and Paramedic with organizations like Ameritech Die & Mold, Doosan Bobcat, JMS Southeast, Piedmont Healthcare, and Iredell County. Students are prepared to participate in these programs through the Career Academy & Technical School which offers an extensive list of fields of study.
Similarly, Mooresville Graded School District offers comparable courses and programs, employing 20 CTE teachers at Mooresville High School with 22 pathway offerings between three campuses as well as three CTE teachers at each of the two middle schools. CTE departments in Business, Marketing, and Computer Science; Family and Consumer Science; Health Science; and Trade and Industry are already flourishing in Mooresville High School while courses in Drone Technology, Electrical Trades, Advanced Manufacturing, and Metals Manufacturing are quickly gaining momentum. Mooresville Graded School District had 20 interns for the Fall of 2023 along with two pre-apprenticeships.
Julie Blocker, Career & Technical Education Administrator for Mooresville Graded School District, was excited to share that more than 750 students in sixth through twelfth grade engage in work-based learning, and they are currently planning career exploration activities for fifth graders.
Despite their extensive lists of successes, both Blocker and Williams agree that additional business engagement is critical to the continued growth of their programs. “We would like to be able to offer more job shadow experiences, guest speaker series, and summer internships to our students,” Blocker says.
Williams, however, addressed the challenges of corporate regulations preventing businesses from hiring students under the age of 18. “Companies should verify their policy,” he says. “Or work them in non-hazardous departments. I always encourage businesses to reach out to other companies that are doing it.”
Williams also shared that school districts pay for supplemental general liability insurance policies that cover students while they are participating in the program.
Under the auspices of Iredell Ready, Mooresville Graded School District and Iredell Statesville Schools along with their partner organizations, Mitchell Community College, Centralina Workforce Development, Iredell County, the Greater Statesville Chamber of Commerce are all continuing to create programs to best prepare the students and residents of Iredell County for the growing workforce needs. As the leader of the initiative, Iredell EDC strives to connect the existing and new industries with these programs through various means like the Industry Leaders Council. For more information on Iredell Ready or inclusion in this program, contact Todd@iredelledc.com