Education | Employment

Post-Pandemic Employability Skills in the Modern North Carolina Workforce

by Jasmine Johnson, ncIMPACT Deputy Director

October 17, 2023

Get Your Questions Answered

What makes quality employability training? In a post-COVID environment, this is on the minds of many employers and job seekers.  The pandemic has transformed the landscape of work, bringing significant changes in skills employees require, or “employability skills.”. How can we improve employability skills development among young adults in North Carolina?

1. What are employability skills?

Employability skills encompass the interdisciplinary proficiencies and intrapersonal characteristics requisite within most occupational settings. These competencies determine an individual’s capacity to autonomously acquire, maintain, and adapt to diverse professional environments.

Employability skills are categorized by the following:

2. Employability vs. Durability vs. Soft Skills

“Employability skills,” “durable skills” and “soft skills” are often used interchangeably. But what do these terms really mean? Are these terms interchangeable? Do they refer to identical competencies and concepts?

Here are some examples of employability skills:

3. Who has been impacted?

The burgeoning workforce has been profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Factors such as education, psychological well-being, and formative experiences have transformed conventional pathways into the job market. The term “Opportunity Youth” refers to young adults between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four who are neither employed nor engaged in education pathways. This group includes members of Generation Z and Generation Alpha, and place considerable emphasis on their prospective employers’ values aligning their own and working and maintaining a respectful workplace environment. The effects of this group’s perspective on work have been evidenced by changes in the workforce in the recovery from the pandemic.

4. What key employability skills have North Carolina employers identified?

The most coveted employability skill among employers in North Carolina is adaptability. The ability to exhibit versatility in both the work environment and deliverables is deemed crucial for achieving success. Given the prevalence of remote and hybrid workplaces, the establishment of trust between employers and employees is a pivotal factor in attaining stability. 

“I would say the critical thinking, the adaptability, the flexibility, especially because employers are trying to do more with fewer workers.” Columbus County Employment Support Provider response from ncIMPACT Initiative & NCGrowthWhere are the workers?” focus groups on the North Carolina pandemic labor market.

5. What is needed for employees to cultivate employability skills?

Training Resources

Greater development of young peoples’ employability skills is crucial for increasing the quality of job opportunities they can access. With the adaptation of online learning, the accessibility to training is ever growing. 

“It takes some people a little bit of time, or a couple days, maybe a week, a month, to readjust and get back right on track. But just connect, that’s the only thing you have do is connect.” –Wilson County Young Person response from ncIMPACT Initiative & NCGrowthWhere are the workers?” focus groups on the North Carolina pandemic labor market. 

Access to Empathetic mentorship

Employees, particularly those whose educational trajectory was detrimentally influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, have faced many encountered challenges. It is imperative that compassion is employed when devising innovative remedies to address the existing lacunae in professional competencies. 

“[A mentor] offered to help me with my application process for getting into the college and it… having people who know about that kind of stuff in our communities where they can be like, “Hey, you’ve never done this before, but I have and I can help you,” is really important.” –Macon County Young Person response from ncIMPACT Initiative & NCGrowthWhere are the workers?” focus groups on the North Carolina pandemic labor market.

6. How is ncIMPACT Initiative contributing to North Carolina’s workforce employability skills development?

With the backing of the Golden L.E.A.F. Foundation, the Carolina Across 100: Our State, Our Work team is developing a virtual course that will offer experiential learning opportunities to foster employability skills throughout North Carolina. 

In collaboration with the North Carolina Community College System and Microsoft Office, the course is scheduled to be launched in the spring of 2024.

Keep learning with “Our State, Our Work” as we learn from the work of our 13 collaboratives and share information and resources to help North Carolina communities connect young adults with living wage employment opportunities.

Carolina Across 100 is a five-year initiative charged by Chancellor Guskiewicz and housed at the School of Government’s ncIMPACT Initiative. This pan-University effort, guided by the Carolina Engagement Council, will form meaningful partnerships with communities in all 100 North Carolina counties to respond to challenges stemming from or exacerbated by COVID-19.