State News

Bowles, Burr host summit on education and economy

Posted October 19, 2009 4:06 a.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2009 7:16 p.m. EDT

— An economic summit on the role of North Carolina's educational system in economic and work force development attracted about 150 officials and business representatives Monday.

University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr hosted the summit at North Carolina Central University in Durham.

"We are all in this boat together – the public sector (and) the private sector," Bowles said. "The only way we are going to create jobs and build a sustainable future – a good economic future for North Carolina – is to have a highly skilled, highly trained work force."

Education leaders said the push starts by improving K-12 education throughout the state.

"We've got to train better teachers, more teachers, teachers with stronger math and science skills," Bowles said.

The state's 58 community colleges, which are seeing record enrollment this fall, also will play a key role in economic development, officials said.

"Getting out in front a few years, that's one of the things that can be challenging when your demands are so great in the present, but we are not losing that focus," said Scott Ralls, president of the state Community College System.

SAS Institute founder and Chief Executive Jim Goodnight said North Carolina businesses need well-trained workers and managers to survive. The nation is quickly falling behind China in terms of producing people that can operate successful technology businesses, he said.

"Innovation goes where the knowledge workers, the experts, the Ph.Ds are," Goodnight said. "We certainly need more STEM skills – science, technology, engineering and math."