NCEDA Research Committee Blog: North Carolina Workforce
Development Leadership Initiative Has Begun!

NCEDA Research Committee Blog: North Carolina Workforce
Development Leadership Initiative Has Begun!

Written By: Ken Allen, NCWorks Commission Staff
Director of Business Engagement, NC Department of Commerce


On October 10, 2022, an exciting new program was launched to bring North Carolina economic and workforce development professionals together. That was the first day of classes for the new NC Workforce Development Leadership Initiative. Established by NC State University in collaboration with the NCWorks Commission, the NC Department of Commerce, and the NC Association of Workforce Development Boards, the program will prepare graduates to earn the professional designation of Certified Workforce Developer – the only designation of its kind in the country.


With North Carolina’s “First in Talent” Plan emphasizing the paramount importance of workforce in economic development success, and with communities needing to increase labor force participation, there is no better time for this Initiative to get off the ground.


With initial support provided by the US Economic Development Administration, the Workforce Development Leadership Initiative seeks to prepare individuals who may participate on or lead local workforce development boards, engage with economic developers, or create initiatives that will further their community. Workforce development is an essential component of a community’s economic development efforts, and stronger collaboration between workforce and economic developers will lead to more resilient communities.


The workforce development field requires strong, dedicated, and capable leaders who can create strategies that enhance their community’s capacity. Leaders need to understand the economic conditions of their community, the region, and the state to leverage available skills and local capacity for economic opportunities as they emerge.


The Initiative is an intensive, six-month professional training program comprised of four instructional courses, each of which includes twelve contact hours in the classroom. There are two core courses, “Introduction to Workforce Development Policy” and “Advanced Workforce Development Leadership,” and two elective courses. In addition to training and education, the Initiative provides resources for leaders throughout North Carolina.


Several economic development professionals are among the inaugural participants in the Initiative and members of the Talent First Economics peer-learning cohort led by NC State’s Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI). Cohort members will attend the 37th annual Emerging Issues Forum, called “Talent First Economics,” on February 13, 2023, at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh.


The cohort includes five regional teams from across the state. Representatives from Columbus County Economic Development, Rockingham County Economic Development, Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, Randolph County Economic Development Corporation, Transylvania Economic Alliance, Global TransPark Economic Development Region, economic development-related offices at UNC Wilmington and Western Carolina University, local Chambers of Commerce, local government, Councils of Governments (COGs), community colleges and local workforce development boards are among the diverse participants.


The Initiative is housed in NC State University’s Municipal Research Lab, led by Bruce McDonald, Ph.D. In addition to IEI, other partners within NC State include the Economic Development Partnership and the McKimmon Center for Extension and Continuing Education. Faculty are selected from various UNC System schools, with expert practitioners supplementing the instruction with professional experience.


To learn more about the NC Workforce Development Leadership Initiative, visit