ROCKY MOUNT – Golden LEAF Foundation is launching a new $5 million grant program designed to help train workers needed for “urgent industry needs.”

The grants, which were announced early Thursday, are intended for organizations who can “help working-age adults with barriers to employment receive the skills needed to obtain high-demand jobs.”

“This initiative is in response to employers need to grow the pool of qualified workers for high-demand, full-time jobs,” said Golden LEAF Board Chair Bo Biggs.

The program is called GLOW, short for Golden LEAF Opportunities for Work. Applications for grants are due by March 6.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate is under 4 percent (3.8 percent in November, according to US government statistics) but demand remains high for skilled labor, Golden LEAF notes.

And the need is growing.

“By 2030 in North Carolina, a projected 67% of jobs will require a post-secondary degree or credential. On its current trajectory, post-secondary educational attainment in the state will only reach 54%,” the foundation said.

“Increasing the number of people in the workforce, especially for jobs requiring a post-secondary degree or credential, is necessary for North Carolina’s economic vitality.”

The foundation notes the program recipients will be required to “assist working-age adults who face significant barriers to employment, are underemployed, or are experiencing long-term unemployment and will provide support and opportunities to these adults to increase skills or obtain post-secondary credentials that lead to work in their community.”

Applicants should be “established 501(c)(3) nonprofits or governmental entities with at least three years of experience helping this population obtain full-time work,” the foundation adds.

“Projects should show a comprehensive and collaborative approach to re-engaging people in the workforce and leverage existing federal, state, and local workforce development resources.”

For more information, visit this site.

Golden LEAF, launched in 1999, focuses on tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and rural areas of the state. It says it has helped create “63,000 jobs, over half a billion dollars in new payrolls and more than 68,000 workers trained or retrained for higher wages.”