Several years ago, superintendents from school districts in eastern North Carolina sat down with leaders from the region’s largest industries to discuss current and future needs for our workforce. What we heard was surprising. School districts were told that we were often not nimble enough to address the skilled workforce needs for available jobs.

On Tuesday, business and education leaders from our region had the chance to share how counties across eastern North Carolina — including Pitt, Lenoir, Beaufort, Pamlico, Craven, Carteret, Onslow, Jones, Duplin, Wayne, Wilson and Greene Counties — have worked together to make a real difference for the future of our communities.

The purpose of the panel discussion, including representatives from local industry (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Hyster-Yale Group and Fleet Readiness Center East) and my perspective from the Greene County school district, was to highlight how our region, through STEMEast, is making strides toward bridging the gap for our students between education and the workforce.

Our region began tough conversations years ago that served as a catalyst for many superintendents to take action. As a result, our region is an example for the rest of state as communities from the mountains to the east grapple with staggering data about the future of North Carolina’s workforce.

Regional partnerships do work for the good of our communities.

For example, Greene County Schools partnered several years ago with Lenoir Community College to secure a Golden LEAF grant to install a computer-integrated machining lab on the shared campus of LCC and Greene Central High School in Snow Hill. LCC already had a robust welding program in place, and the machining lab added to the opportunities for our students. Now, industry comes to LCC to offer our students jobs before they even complete the program.

It is important for all our students in the STEMEast footprint to have access to job opportunities located close to home. This homegrown approach is economic development at its purest level for the region, and it gives our students even brighter futures.

Patrick C. Miller

Snow Hill

Miller is superintendent of Greene County Schools and the 2019 A. Craig Phillips Superintendent of the Year