Keywords: economic development, education
I don’t believe there has ever been a time in High Point’s history in which so many positive developments are converging at one time.
At the opening game for the Rockers last week, as I looked around our new stadium I could literally feel the collective pride of the entire community. In addition to the BB&T Point stadium we will have a significant private development surrounding it and a multitude of new projects that include: the HP 365 Initiative, the Nido and Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum, the HPU Arena and Hotel, the Congdon Exhibition Center and many downtown redevelopment projects.
All of this underscores that High Point is redefining itself as a community and stepping up into a new era of economic prosperity. I attribute the lion’s share of this credit to strong leadership from Dr. Nido Qubein, his Committee, Forward High Point and our Business High Point-Chamber of Commerce. We now also have a focused, committed and rejuvenated private sector that has a strong voice, financial resources and the clear vision for what our community can and should be.
To maintain this robust economic growth it will be absolutely vital to create, nurture and sustain an educated, well-trained, modern workforce that can attract the new 21st century businesses High Point needs to reach our true God-given potential.
Here are some statistics that we as a community must understand and be willing to intentionally work towards.
First, 60% of all the new jobs in America will require post-secondary credentials in the next ten years. Currently only 45% of our workforce have post-secondary credentials. If we want to be competitive nationally we need to move this number to at least 60%.
Keep in mind this doesn’t necessarily mean college degrees. In fact, for our community I would say our greatest current need is for well-trained community college (GTCC) graduates who have skills in aviation maintenance, mechanical engineering, computer technologies, electronics, construction and others. Not only are these skills vital in our local marketplace, the students coming out of GTCC will not be overburdened with the enormous debt that is currently handicapping so many of our college graduates.
Why is this so important for High Point’s future?
Education for economic development
The short answer is that our current workforce is undereducated and struggles with literacy. Modern industries need employees who are skill-driven, computer literate, intellectually competent and, most importantly, who are thinkers and self-sufficient problem solvers. Creating a workforce like this starts in preschool with strong, “level the playing field,” early child development that must be maintained and nurtured during the critically important 13 years of elementary, middle and high school. Our graduating students must be academically capable of not only being accepted, but well-prepared to successfully complete community college and college. After graduation the responsibility is on us to provide these graduates with good reasons to stay, live and work here in High Point.
What we are talking about is economic development through “degree attainment” and this will only happen if we dramatically improve our public schools through wise private and public investments. We must take responsibility for the personal care, emotional and physical wellbeing as well as the mentoring of our underprivileged students and create the financial means for every qualified student to be able to attend community college or college.
The newly reorganized and locally controlled Say Yes Guilford initiative has, in the last 3 years, provided scholarships that have sent nearly 700 local students to Community Colleges in addition to the over 3,500 scholarships for students attending 4 year colleges. We need to continue to grow this number and keep in mind that 90% of the students who attend GTCC stay and work in our community!
Degree Attainment must become a top priority for all of us and this includes our Guilford County Board of Commissioners, our High Point City Council, our City Leadership, local business leaders and High Point’s philanthropists, which includes every one of us.
This is our time, our season for change; we have the energy, the momentum, the resources and the leadership to create a heathier, better educated and more robust community for our current and future generations.
Let us be remembered as the generation who cared enough to invest in our most valuable resources, our students and our local schools.