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Connecting the Dots

An NCDIDI Newsletter

Welcome to the July 2021 NCDIDI Newsletter

— Michael Mullins, Director NCDIDI

According to Forbes, ‘organizations that drive diversity, equity and inclusion enjoy a boom in innovation, collaboration and employee engagement, which combine to deliver a distinct competitive and fiscal advantage. McKinsey research has found that organizations in the top quartile for workforce diversity are 33% more likely to financially outperform their less diverse competition.’

In this issue of the NCDIDI newsletter, business leaders, university administrators and human resource specialists share their knowledge on ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’. Leressa Suber, NC State Industry Expansion Solutions (IES), will discuss “Diversifying Manufacturing: DEI Outreach Strategies to Address the Talent Shortage”. J. Michael Naylor, Enlighten Resources, covers “The Value of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the NC Military Industry”. John Dorris, NC State Industry Expansion Solutions (IES), guides us through “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: An Impact Opportunity for Owners of Small Businesses”.

Core Technology Molding, located in Greensboro, North Carolina, is spotlighted as one of the 30 companies currently participating in the NCDIDI program. Geoff Foster, CEO of Core Technology Molding, shares his company’s commitment to DEI that has driven proven results and value to his organization and employees. We will learn that Geoff’s dedication to DEI is part of his success in employee retention and offering a creative edge when providing a more relatable experience with his growing diverse clientele. 

Additionally, we have included links to relevant articles, podcasts, webinars and upcoming events that you may find beneficial, as you continue your DEI journey.

Diversifying Manufacturing: DEI Outreach Strategies to Address theTalent Shortage

Leressa Suber, PHR, SHRM-CP
NC State Industry Expansion Solutions

Diversifying Manufacturing: DEI Outreach Strategies to Address theTalent Shortage

According to Korn Ferry, 85 million jobs globally will go unfilled by 2030. As the pandemic continues to usher in the Future of Work, the manufacturing skills shortage will continue to disrupt productivity. As organizations address talent shortages, it is critical to incorporate DEI into the hiring outlook. Diversifying talent is not only the right thing to do, but guarantees you will reflect the customer, supply chains and communities you serve. Building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture allows for holistic perspectives, communication styles and innovative strategies to co-exist. To accomplish this goal, organizations must ensure access and awareness of employment opportunities for specific populations such as women in STEM, historically underrepresented populations, veterans, and persons with disabilities. By embracing DEI, the manufacturing industry can empower and uplift communities and win the war on talent. To remain competitive, SMEs (small and medium enterprises) need to be intentional about how to attract, recruit, and retain diverse talent. 

How to Attract Diverse Talent 

70% of job seekers value a company’s commitment to diversity when evaluating potential employers (Cision, 2020)

Assess your Company Brand and Reputation

What is your company’s industry reputation? Does your organization represent and welcome an inclusive culture? If job seekers are not familiar with who you are and what your company values are, they may not want to work for you. 

  • Work with leadership and diversity champions (staff that have had a good experience) to tell your DEI story. Get testimonials from staff to tell your story; inspired by the ‘Creators Wanted’ by National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and Manufacturing Institute
  • Establish your brand by communicating your message on your website, social media and within the community. If you need assistance, NC DIDI helps you with resources related to website development, core values assessment, and mission/vision statement.

Build Awareness of Manufacturing among Diverse Talent Pools

  • Do diverse talent pools recognize manufacturing as an attainable career field? Work with partners to get the messaging out to potential candidates that manufacturing is a viable, sustainable, profitable career pathway. To assist with these efforts, partner with your local workforce development boards, community colleges, and Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP) centers, the national network of specialists who understand SME needs.

Recruiting Talent using DEI Approach

To truly be a diverse and inclusive organization, identify which groups are underrepresented in your organization and take action to intentionally target recruiting strategies towards this demographic. However, if you provide services to the government, you are required to develop recruiting practices that align to Executive Order 11246 to maintain an Affirmative Action Plan that ensures outreach to all protected classes. 


The jobless rate for all veterans increased to 6.5 percent in 2020 (BLS, 2020)

There are many benefits to hiring veterans! From their strong personal traits and transferable skills, such as leadership, resilience, and loyalty — to monetary benefits such as employer incentives — The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), Veteran Tax Credits (VTC), veterans represent a strong talent pool. For additional assistance, you can connect with Heros Make America, a training program that prepares military members and their spouses to work in manufacturing. 

Disabled Workers

80% of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are unemployed (Arc, 2020)

There are opportunities to hire, train and upskill candidates with special needs. As an employer there are many agencies you can partner with to support and assist matching candidates to your roles. Here are a few organizations state and nationwide that can assist you. The Arc of NC, The U.S. Workforce Recruitment Program, The Office of Disability Employment Policy,The Job Accommodation Network.

Underrepresented Minorities (URM)

About 50% of STEM workers believe limited access to quality education is a major reason why blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in STEM jobs (Pew Research, 2018)

Underrepresented minorities in STEM include: Latinx, Black and American Indians. To address this underrepresentation, organizations such as the National Science Foundation and others foundations release grant funds to support the education and upskilling for these populations. Specific grants titled, ‘Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP)’ prioritize funding to URM groups to receive bachelors and masters degrees. Other options for tapping diverse talent pipelines are reaching out to HBCU’s historically black colleges and universities or other organizations related to STEM. 

Women in STEM

Women make up 33% of the manufacturing industry workforce in the United States (Census, 2020)

Despite the push to recruit women in STEM at an early age, women are still underrepresented in STEM fields. However, research shows that women are making great impacts in advancing the field. Is your organization prepared to welcome women? Do you present offers with transparent pay scales, benefits and other total rewards necessary to compel women to join your organization? Are you committed to equitable pay and leadership access? How are you handling intersectionality, the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage? For example, will a latinx, queer woman feel comfortable joining your organization? 

How to Retain Diverse Talent

79% of organizations say fostering a sense of belonging in the workforce is important or very important for their success over the next 12 months (Deloitte, 2020)

Establish an Inclusive Culture

To ensure staff feel comfortable throughout their employee experience, develop Employer Resource Groups, Mentor Programs and strong onboarding practices.

Upskill the Workforce

Candidates want to have an opportunity to advance when they join a new organization. Do you provide opportunities to develop leadership skills or cross-train? Do you offer discover economical opportunities to train and upskill your staff, reach out to your local Manufacturing Extension Partners (MEPs), there are 50 across the US. Your local North Carolina community college or vocational education program can help with identifying candidates, too.

Maintain Leadership Buy-In and Training 

The guidance and instruction for DEI programming strategies need to come down from upper management. Without leadership support, the program will stagnate and you may experience turnover from changing in culture and belonging. To combat this, CEO’s, owner-managers, HR managers and front line leaders need to understand how to navigate the talent acquisition, onboarding and retention processes to ensure talent remains actively engaged throughout the employee life cycle. If you do not have access to an HR staff, consider outsourcing to NC State Industry Expansion Solutions or reach out to a third-party DEI provider.

The Value of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in NC Military Industry

— J. Michael Naylor, Human Resources (HR) and Operations Consultant

The Value of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in NC Military Industry

In the growing complexity to military ventures and supply chain operations, doing business with the military requires a creative, value added, responsive and scalable solution to tackling these challenges. As the business economic cycle model states, people make institutions (corporations and government), and institutions make products and services. These products and services are offered to customers which in turn impact communities. While this community supported by the NCDIDI is focused on military operations, the foundational component is still people who make up the institutions. People who come with a myriad of differences, including life experiences, education, and exposure. Harnessing these differences and striving to engage everyone provides for a greater outcome to products and services, components and ultimately impacts the community.

A 2015 McKinsey report, “Why Diversity Matters”, examined 256 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, United States, and the UK found several conclusions. One conclusion found that companies in the top quarter for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. 

In the United States, they determined a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance. They also found that unequal performance of companies in the same industry and country implies that diversity is a competitive differentiator that shifts market share toward the more diverse companies. It clearly indicated that we cannot eliminate the costs associated with not doing DEI internally and externally. 

Further research also indicates that driving sustainability efforts are critical to organizational success. Sustainable development was defined in the World Commission on Environment and Development 1987 Brundtland report ´Our Common Future` as `development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Components of environmental, social and governance or simply stated planet, people, and profits; all of which are necessary to support business and the economic cycle.

Environmental (planet) criteria consider how a company performs as a steward of nature. Social (people) criteria examine how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, communities in which it operates. DEI is front and center in the people component. Governance (profits) deals with the company’s leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, shareholder rights. 

The attractive and competitive landscape in North Carolina is creating a high demand for talent and creative business solutions as more and more companies and industries are drawn to our state to establish regional or national presence or headquarter locations. The drive for talent coupled with changing demographic trends and increasing efforts on sustainability create a perfect storm to drive a comprehensive strategy to embrace and fully leverage DEI.

It is imperative that we engage and utilize the talents, skills, and abilities of each person within the organization. The challenge is creating an environment where these differences can be recognized, valued, and encouraged in the development of solutions and responses to institutional challenges. 

Over the past several years Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has evolved and transformed into a new competitive frontier for institutions. The call is for everyone to work towards a fair, inclusive, and equitable workplace in a society that values all differences. According to the Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Benchmarks Organization (GDEIB) diversity is defined as the variety of similarities and differences among people, often called diversity dimensions, including, but not limited to: gender, sex, gender identity and expression, ethnicity, race, native or indigenous identity/origin, age, generation, disability, sexual orientation, culture, religion, belief system, marital status, parental status, pregnancy, socio-economic status/caste, appearance, language and accent, mental health, education, geography, nationality, work style, work experience, job role and function, thinking style, and personality type. 

Equity is about fairness and justice. It is about taking deliberate actions to remove systemic, group, and individual barriers and obstacles that hinder opportunities and disrupt well-being. Equity is achieved through the identification and elimination of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that create and reinforce unfair outcomes.

Inclusion is a dynamic state of feeling, belonging, and operating in which diversity is leveraged and valued to create a fair, healthy, and high-performing organization or community. An inclusive culture and environment ensure equitable access to resources and opportunities for all. It also enables individuals and groups to feel safe, respected, heard, engaged, motivated, and valued for who they are.

The GEDIB model of:

  • Driving the Strategy
  • Attracting & Retaining People 
  • Aligning and Connecting 
  • Listening To & Serving Society

serves as an excellent approach to harnessing the power of DEI and enhancing the path to greater success and full optimization of the NC military industry.

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These four areas require a serious review and effort to create the best approach and generation of the best outcome possible in each category. Studies have shown that embracing diversity generates a positive impact across organizations, communities, supply chain operations and ultimately business performance. 

So how do we go about initiating a comprehensive approach to DEI?

  • Do the homework, spend time to understand the organizational structure, culture, motivation, and commitment to engage top management’s interest in developing a program/business case. Review element in the GDEIB model.
  • Determine who your stakeholders are, what problems they have had, as well as the challenges the business and industry face. 
  • Identify management levels and key employees. Get employee input at all levels. Engage your customers, your suppliers, even your competitors, your community, and the regulators. Identify history, reputation, problems, problems that others see, potential problems, attitudes, and trends, and trust. Engage not just your customers, but other external stakeholders, community, etc.
  • Begin to lay out your plan for the company – where will you start and what metrics will be identified for tracking. Determine how you will receive and process data to make appropriate tweaks and continuous improvements, as necessary. 
  • Identify training and other items required to manage plans. Training can take different forms at different levels. It should always be combined with group discussion, Q&A, and feedback loop.
  • Implement strategy ideally from top level support and communicate internally and externally. Keep track of your metrics and performance timeframes to provide timely communication updates.

Fully embracing DEI to establish this competitive advantage will be a journey and will almost certainly involve a cultural evolution in the organization. This journey is well worth the trip although it will not be accomplished without serious internal and personal reflection, understanding of conscious and unconscious bias, expanding beyond our single store experience, exposing ourselves to other cultures and approaches and showing empathy for people and groups that are different from us.

These steps will truly prepare organizations to be a major player in the NC military industry market by creating the best organizational strategy, attracting and retaining best and brightest talent, aligning, and connecting with customers, stakeholders, and supply chain suppliers, and listening to and serving society with sustainable solutions.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: An Impact Opportunity for Owners of Small Businesses

— John Dorris PhD, Director of Strategic Resource Development/Evaluation & Assessment

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: An Impact Opportunity for Owners of Small Businesses

Any small business owner seeking contracts with the federal government is well aware of requirements designed to promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Adhering to these requirements is also helpful in retaining employees (Weber, 2005; McWilliams and Siegel, 2001; Deloitte, 2017) and customers who appreciate businesses taking on such a social responsibility (Cone, 2004). Bottom line: It is good business to demonstrate a commitment to complying with requirements and efforts to promote DEI. However, it’s the focus on demonstrating such a commitment that reminds me of a conversation I had with a business partner several years ago. 

For most of the 1990s, I was an owner of a company that designed and manufactured asphalt plant equipment including feeder bins, silos, conveyors, aggregate dryers, etc. Earlier in my career, I had operated the plate shear, ironworker, drill press, plasma burner, burning torch, and overhead cranes, so I was well aware of the dangers of the production environment. One day when discussing employee safety with a business partner, he asked, “How can we show OSHA that we are committed to providing a safe work environment?” It immediately struck me that he might be missing the point so I said, “Maybe we should first make sure we are committed to providing a safe work environment.”

Demonstrating a commitment to DEI and being committed to DEI are two different things, and when there are so many benefits to demonstrating a commitment it is important to occasionally do a self-check: Is our demonstration based on a commitment rooted in understanding or respecting other perspectives? Whether this question is asked in the context of DEI or in even a broader context, it is a difficult one to ask of ourselves, and one that requires engaging others to accurately answer.

As a manufacturing company owner, I believed I was committed to helping my employees, and I would frequently express that. But, even now I sometimes think about Frank. Frank had the job title of “helper,” to assist a more highly paid “fitter.” It was not unusual for him to show up late for work, saying that once again his car had broken down. He was frequently reminded of the company attendance policy, but finally he accumulated enough “late points” to be fired. So I fired him.

It was not until years later when I was working with people experiencing homelessness and talking with them about their struggles that I realized I had not really been committed to helping Frank. I could have seen that for him, like many others in low-paying jobs, it’s a roll of the dice every day to get to work when you can’t afford to repair your car. I could have sought ways to help get his car repaired, but I didn’t. The visits and talks with people who did not look, think, or live like me helped me understand that.

It was the connection with others, not the correction by others that helped me see Frank’s perspective, and I believe such connectivity can help an increasingly polarized country make progress on DEI. Owners of small businesses are uniquely positioned to have a big impact in this regard because research shows that they tend to have more of a personal connection with, and perceived credibility in, supporting socially responsible causes than do large corporations (Wickert, Scherer, & Spence, 2016). 

With the seemingly countless fatal encounters of African-Americans with law enforcement and the rise in violence against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, there are many clear and tragic reminders that there is a lot of work to be done regarding DEI. There are subtle reminders as well when we look at another group routinely vilified: immigrants. A study focusing on immigrant small business owners in the southeastern United States reports that “5 themes emerged for immigrant small businesses that were successful and survived beyond 5 years: strong work ethic and family dynamics, flexibility and independence, limited societal barriers, business experience, persistence and great customer service.” (Nnabue, 2016, abstract). As a former small business owner, I probably would have described in some form all but one of these themes. The theme that would not have come to mind is the “limited social barriers” because as a white male business owner I never really encountered such a barrier. However, its absence in my mind, and its presence in the mind of immigrant business owners speaks volumes about inequality and injustices that are unrecognized or even worse, knowingly ignored. 

We each have unique blind spots that can only be reduced by connecting with others, and DEI efforts can help make those connections. Owners who demonstrate a commitment to DEI can change their bottom line; owners who live that commitment can change the world. 


Cone (2004). Corporate citizenship study: Building brand trust. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from 

Deloitte. (2017). The 2017 Deloitte millennial survey: Apprehensive millennials: Seeking stability and opportunities in an uncertain world. Retrieved from 

McWilliams, A.; Siegel, D. (2001). Corporate social responsibility: A theory of the firm perspective. Academy of Management Review, 26(1), 117–127.

Nnabue, Tony, “Success Strategies Among Immigrant Small Business Owners in the Southeastern United States” (2016). Walden Dissertations and Doctoral Studies. 2566. 

Weber, G. (2005). The recruiting payoff of social responsibility. Workforce Management, January 2005. Retrieved from 

Wickert, C.; Scherer, A.G.; Spence, L. J. (2016). Walking and Talking Corporate Social Responsibility: Implications of Firm Size and Organizational Cost. Journal of Management Studies, Pre-print.

Core Technology Molding

— Geoff Foster, CEO

Core Technology Molding

Core Technology Molding Corporation values Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and it is one of our Core values. The key for our organization is to invest in employee engagement initiatives to drive productivity, increase profits and remain competitive. Being a global supplier and shipping to over 150 countries, we have been intentional and hired employees that are Black, White, Hispanic, African, Gay and Lesbian, to name a few. Our customers have told us they see value in our company because we come up with creative solutions in the problem solving process. Our customers get frustrated because their own employees all look alike, talk alike, think alike, dress alike…and come up with the exact same solutions. The DEI strategy keeps us creative and several of our employees come from humble beginnings and develop unique cost-saving ideas that are efficient. 

Core Technology promotes Employee Engagement and this drives a low turnover rate. Every month, we have an Employee of the Month Celebration and the employees get a cash reward and a framed certificate that is hung on the Information Board. Every employee is recognized for a birthday and work anniversary celebration with lunch or dinner. Prior to Covid-19, there was an all-expense Annual Employee Appreciation Trip planned out of the country. A list of our trips include:

  • Universal Resort, Orlando, FL (2021)
  • Cabo San Lucas (cancelled due to Covid-19)
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica (2019)
  • Cancun, Mexico (2018)
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (2017)
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise ( 2016)

In 2017, Core Technology joined the fight against poverty in Guilford County by joining forces with United Way Greater Greensboro. Core employees are not required to but are strongly encouraged to donate to the cause. Core is also a Guilford County Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics S.T.E.M partner. In addition to offering internships to high school and college students, plant tours are given to elementary and middle school students. Core Technology Molding has recently started a 501 (c)(3) in 2021 named “Molding Kids for Success” to give children from underrepresented groups interested in STEM careers the chance to see advanced and additive manufacturing with our new HP 3D color printer. This weeklong summer camp will be hosted by Core Technology at our advanced state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. Core is present in the East Greensboro community and will be providing training to children from the Greensboro Housing Authority at the camp this summer.

NC Defense Industry Diversification Initiative (NCDIDI)

The State of North Carolina is home to a diverse military industry, with varied military and defense missions, needs and opportunities.

In a proactive response to changes in federal defense budgets, NCDIDI was created. The program has been managed through a partnership between NC State Industry Expansion Solutions and the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

The intended goal is to help companies maximize their growth potential and cybersecurity resiliency and enhance their strategic development planning and sustainability efforts to see impact beyond NCDIDI the funding period.

This program is funded through a grant awarded by the United State Department of Defense Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation.