09.04.2009 News Releases

New Report: Reversing NC’s Job Slide

WINSTON-SALEM (September 4, 2009) – By testing the limits of traditional methods of economic and workforce development, the recession is providing North Carolina with an opportunity to deploy a different approach to job creation and skill formation known as jobs-centered development. This model holds the potential to cultivate the skilled workforces demanded by local businesses and expand the opportunities available to area residents, especially low-income ones.

These insights come from the new study When Any Job Isn’t Enough: Jobs Centered Development in the American South. The report’s purpose was to analyze changes in development practices that have occurred across the South over the past decade and identify lessons relevant to current realities. The analysis was commissioned by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation in Winston-Salem and prepared by South by North Strategies, Ltd. in Chapel Hill.

“For some time, communities around the South have recognized that development strategies that simply sell a place on the basis of low costs seldom create living wage jobs for the long term,” says Gayle Williams, executive director of the Babcock Foundation. “At the same time, many places quietly have crafted more integrated approaches that serve the needs of businesses, workers, and communities. Our intention is to spotlight good ideas and learn what works where.”

“Jobs-centered development is an emerging alternative to traditional models of economic and workforce development,” explains John Quinterno, a principal at South by North Strategies and the author of the report. “The goal is to increase community prosperity by simultaneously meeting the workforce needs of local firms and the career-building and skill development needs of local workers, especially low-income ones.”

Because jobs-centered development is a relatively new, relatively localized approach, it lacks a standard model. Nevertheless, research suggests that successful efforts are regional ones built upon five building blocks: 1) an awareness of the macro context; 2) an understanding of the regional economy; 3) knowledge of industry realities; 4) a commitment to worker development and advancement; and 5) the involvement of high-performing intermediary organizations. These components then can be combined to deliver a variety of strategies tailored to local conditions.

“North Carolina is home to an impressive number of jobs-centered development efforts,” observes Quinterno. “In western North Carolina, Hand Made in America has used jobs-centered development techniques tied to entrepreneurship to catalyze the growth of a multi-million dollar crafts industry across a 25-county area. In Greensboro, the Latino Pathways Project created by MDC, Inc. and a local consortium of educational and service providers has helped local health care employers fill job openings while launching recent immigrants on career paths.”

“North Carolina is a regional leader in the jobs-centered development field,” adds Quinterno. “Unfortunately, many promising efforts have received limited funding and have struggled to achieve scale.”

“The current recession represents a test of, and opportunity for, jobs-centered development,” continues Quinterno. “On the one hand, many models were developed in response to the tight labor markets of the late 1990s, not the high unemployment environment of today. On the other hand, the federal recovery act has extended significant financial support for such initiatives, particularly those related to health care and the ‘green economy.’ The challenge is to adapt to current conditions and leverage resources for the maximum benefit of all North Carolinians.”

To meet the recessionary challenges, concludes the report, practitioners and supporters of jobs-centered development should direct their attention to four areas. First, they could reposition themselves to respond to changes in regional economies. Second, they have a chance to leverage federal funds for the specific benefit of low-income workers and low-wealth communities. Third, they could invest in the capacities of intermediary organizations. Lastly, there is an opportunity to for improvements to social insurance and educational policies.

To view the report When Any Job Isn’t Enough: Jobs Centered Development in the American South, visit the web site of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. The site contains the full report and a condensed summary.

Contacts John Quinterno, South by North Strategies, Ltd., (919) 622-2392 and Gayle Williams, The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, (336) 748-9222

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