Workforce development boards are part of a network of state or local offices known as the Public Workforce System. Workforce development boards support economic expansion and aim to develop the workforce in the United States.
In Mecklenburg County, the prominent workforce development agency is Charlotte Works. Charlotte Works’ mission is leading the development of a skilled and in-demand workforce by engaging businesses, aligning community partners, empowering and connecting job seekers to meaningful employment, and fostering inclusive economic growth. According to Chief Operating Officer Anna London, this means serving as the backbone of the workforce ecosystem. Charlotte Works does that by ensuring that people in Mecklenburg County have in-demand skills, credentials, and access to jobs in Mecklenburg County.
Traditionally, Charlotte Works partners with businesses to create local jobs and connect K-12 school systems with workforce resources. According to London, Charlotte Works also oversees NC Works career centers, and in and out of school youth programs. Additionally, Charlotte Works provides working youth, young adults, and adults an opportunity for training scholarships, career advising, career development workshops, paid internships, and other referrals for wrap-around support.
However, this is not all of what Charlotte Works is involved in. London mentions that two years ago, Charlotte Works realized the need to expand career services outside career centers, and provide services beyond where they were traditionally offered. One such partnership was with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, where they began providing career advising to residents of the detention center. Soon after this, Charlotte Works realized the need for digital literacy training in the county detention center, as residents voiced that they did not know how to use a computer.
This past summer, Charlotte Works teamed up with Digital Charlotte to provide digital literacy training to residents of the Mecklenburg County detention center– a unique program for a workforce development board. In these digital literacy training workshops, residents of the detention center learned necessary digital skills such as how to use a computer, how to navigate the web, and basic media literacy skills, eliminating another barrier to success and education. “If you never really used a computer then it is extremely important that we teach them those skills not just workforce training or soft skills training, but also make sure they actually have the tools to be able to turn on a computer and update their resume,” according to Anna London.
The partnership between Charlotte Works and Digital Charlotte is unique. According to London, “There are a couple of other Workforce Development Boards in North Carolina that are partnering with their local prisons, and county detention centers, but I am not familiar with any that are doing digital literacy programs or services such as this.” By teaming up with Digital Charlotte, Charlotte Works is providing residents an opportunity to gain a wider skill-set. However, London also mentions that the programs have a greater impact than this. “I don’t know if it can be measured, but it really instills self-confidence in these individuals,” London states. “It does eliminate barriers and gives the opportunity for them to expand their career interest…but I think beyond all of that it eliminates fear.”
1 CareerOneStop Business Center. (2019).What is a WDB? In Funding Employee Training. Retrieved from https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/TrainAndRetain/FundingEmployeeTraining/what-is-a-WDB.aspx
Photo above: Reporter Hillary Powell of Spectrum News produced a June 1, 2019 story on the Mecklenburg County digital literacy program.