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For-profit University of Phoenix comes to legislature to talk about N.C.’s workforce needs

A for-profit higher education company made a presentation at the N.C. legislature Wednesday, in part to make a pitch for the state to establish a central office where businesses can request help meeting their workforce needs.

Scott D’Amico of Apollo Education Group , the parent company for the University of Phoenix, said he conducted a survey of manufacturing businesses, and found that many wished they had more awareness of what the higher education system can do to help train future workers.

D’Amico said he surveyed the companies on behalf of the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, as a way of gauging the needs of North Carolina’s business community.

Though there are many groups in the state that work on issues surrounding training future workers with needed skill sets, many employers are often unaware of those efforts, D’Amico said.

“The manufacturers don’t always hear about this,” he said. “There were a lot of disjointed efforts”

D’Amico’s 12-page presentation (click here [1] to view) at the Senate Workforce and Economic Development committee meeting was met with some skepticism by lawmakers, several of whom pointed out that the state’s community college system and commerce department already work closely with employers.

“Do you not do the same things our community colleges do?,” asked state Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican and an influential member on education issues. “I would hope and expect our chamber would be just as anxious to work with our community colleges.”

D’Amico said the University of Phoenix, which does have a Charlotte campus, came in to survey what needs North Carolina has, and wasn’t using its visit to the legislature as a way of increasing its footprint in the state.

State Sen. Mike Woodard, a Democrat from Durham County, said though ideas about having ways for businesses to community their workforce needs are important, it already exists in the state.

“We have a lot of that in place now,” Woodard said. “They [businesses] can make that call to the community college system.”

State Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Republican from Wake County who chairs the committee, said the meeting that the University of Phoenix, which was working with the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, was invited to speak in order for the committee to hear from a wide range of viewpoints.

“It is important to listen to the business community,” Barefoot said.

The state’s workforce development agencies, community college system, and N.C. Department of Public Instruction have all made presentations to the committee, he said.