Economic Opportunity

How can we reconnect North Carolinians to opportunities and good jobs?

The Institute for Emerging Issues forum in Charlotte will explore concrete ways of connecting people to jobs that pay more, in fields with a future. A worker at Storm Technologies. He is fitting a venturi (a device that measures air flow) , a component of a power plant emissions system. Photo: Nancy Pierce

To move up the ladder of opportunity, there’s generally consensus that people need jobs that pay a living wage, where they can grow their earnings over time.

But what’s the best way to get workers, especially low-income workers with barriers such as low educational attainment, connected to those jobs? That’s the focus of the ReCONNECT to Economic Opportunity Forum, scheduled for Oct. 15 in Charlotte. 

The forum, hosted by the NC State University Institute for Emerging Issues, will explore concrete ways of connecting people to jobs that pay more, in fields with a bright future. 

“We will examine ways to connect adult workers to information about sustainable-wage employment, identify accessible education opportunities and promote programs that remove non-academic barriers to, and provide support for, postsecondary education,” according to the forum description. 

This has been a key issue in Charlotte in recent years, since a 2014 study by Harvard economist Raj Chetty ranked the city 50th out of 50 for economic mobility. Multiple efforts, including the Leading on Opportunity task force, are trying to find ways to change that. 

Speakers at the ReCONNECT forum include Gov. Roy Cooper and former Gov. Jim Hunt, Brian Collier of the Foundation for the Carolinas, James Ford, chair of Leading on Opportunity, Mebane Rash, editor-in-chief of EducationNC, Carol Hardison, CEO of Crisis Assistance Ministry and Gary Salamido, CEO of the NC Chamber (You can find a full speakers list and agenda online).

As part of the run-up to the program, Urban Institute director Jeff Michael was interviewed on the “First in Future” podcast by Institute for Emerging Issues director Leslie Boney. The two discussed the state’s economic divide between rural and urban communities, and how the Urban Institute’s Carolinas Urban-Rural Connections project is trying to bridge the gap to increase prosperity for all.

Register online for the forum, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 15 at the Omni Charlotte Hotel uptown. Registration is $275.