Report: Recession accelerated NC high-tech shift

Posted May 25, 2011 11:50 a.m. EDT
Updated May 25, 2011 12:32 p.m. EDT

— The global recession has accelerated North Carolina's shift from manufacturing to technology industries, putting a large segment of the state's workforce at risk, according to a report released Wednesday.

The North Carolina Commission on Workforce Development said the state needs to focus on getting workers retrained for more high-tech positions and ensuring that the state's education system can produce graduates qualified to take on 21st-century manufacturing positions.

“In order for North Carolina to compete on a national and global level, we must continue to invest in educating and training our workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow. We simply can’t go backwards on this commitment," Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco said in a statement.

Companies that thrived on low-skilled labor have shifted most operations overseas to take advantage of lower wages and have reconfigured operations in North Carolina to be more technology-oriented, according to the report.

Workers without the skills to adapt to the new jobs will find low-skill, low-paying jobs harder to find in the future, and the rural areas where many of these jobs were located will decline economically, the report says.

Metro areas that provide an array of technology positions will continue to be a magnet for skilled workers from both inside and outside North Carolina, the report says. The number of residents born elsewhere will pass North Carolina natives living in the state within three years, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections.

Workers will need to continue their education beyond high school or obtain industry-recognized credentials to survive in a technology-based economy, the report says, which will put pressure on North Carolina's education system.