Employers in some states are having difficulty finding qualified workers to fill open positions. Employers report that job candidates lack the required work experience and technical skills. A state could address the skills gaps in the targeted advanced energy sector by expanding public-private training partnerships.
State counties could establish or expand public-private partnerships in the targeted sector as a mechanism for improving vocational training. This concept is not novel or untested; in 2011, Siemens—a medical technology and gas turbine manufacturer—moved into North Carolina and partnered with University of North Carolina and Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) to offer skill assessments, train prospective workers, and create more than 3,500 new jobs throughout the supply chain. In 2014, Siemens announced a $32 million software grant for CPCC’s STEM division, which funded the implementation of Siemen’s software in classrooms. The grant also helped create new courses in advanced technology subjects, including mechanical, electrical, civil, and electronics engineering; advanced manufacturing; information technology; mechatronics; and robotics. CPCC and Siemens also established an apprenticeship model that allows students to experience on-the-job applications of the software.
Employers could coordinate with the local community college system to tap into existing customized training schemes and enhance the program to meet employer needs. For example, employers could provide guidance on highly specific modules in existing technician certificate programs based on technical needs. State and local governments could also offer tax rebates to advanced battery technology employers that commit several employees to work as part-time instructors in the program. This would help prospective employees gain valuable insight and skills in order to be competitive in the job market. Additionally, companies and community colleges could collaborate to offer semester-long internships that could lead to full-time employment depending on job performance. Ultimately, strong public-private partnerships between employers and community colleges could help companies target highly trained technical applicants, while also increasing specialized, on-the-job training opportunities for dedicated students.
In another instance, Alevo–a North Carolina battery manufacturer–anticipates hiring up to 6,000 employees for its growing utility-scale battery company in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. In response to a huge influx of employment interest, the local Centralina Workforce Development Board has taken steps to establish a partnership with Alevo by unveiling a job screening website to streamline Alevo’s employment process and sift through qualified job candidates. A state could use examples from North Carolina to establish similar partnerships, including North Carolina’s recent partnership between Alevo and Centralina.