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RALEIGH – Two local partnership groups have won grants totaling $450,000 to support innovative efforts addressing workforce challenges, Governor Roy Cooper announced today.

The two-year implementation grants come from the NCWorks Local Innovation Fund, which Governor Cooper established as part of his NC Job Ready initiative to prepare North Carolina’s workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

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“As North Carolina keeps growing and creating more good jobs, we need collaboration and creativity to empower our people with the education and training needed to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Governor Cooper said. “I applaud the partners that have received these new grants, which will not only help their own communities but also serve as inspiring models for others across the state.”

The programs receiving grants are:

  • Building Hope – Preparing Gender Minorities for Careers in Construction (Chatham, Orange and Wake counties): A $225,000 grant will help address both a critical need for workers in the construction industry and gender pay disparities by increasing the number of women trained in various skilled trades. A Chapel Hill-based nonprofit organization, Hope Renovations, provides pre-apprenticeship training in construction trades, case management to help resolve employment barriers like child care, internships and additional coaching services to help women succeed on the job. This grant will allow Hope Renovations to expand services beyond Orange County and support the training of approximately 40 participants. Partners include Capital Area Workforce Development Board, Hope Renovations and Wake Technical Community College.
  • OPT-IN and J.E.T.: Creating Opportunities for Opportunity Youth (Burke County): A $225,000 grant will support “opportunity youth” (those who are currently neither in the labor force nor in school) and help meet Burke County’s workforce needs by expanding the “OPT-IN” (Opportunity Internship) program and launching the “Jobs, Education, and Training” (J.E.T.) program. OPT-IN serves recent high school graduates by matching them with local employers for an eight-week, paid exploratory internship. Participants also receive mentoring and professional development classes. Similarly, J.E.T. can serve any opportunity youth between the ages of 18-24, connecting them to local companies offering family-sustaining wages, while providing mentoring and professional development. Both programs will focus outreach on communities of color. Partners include Western Piedmont Workforce Development Board, The Industrial Commons and its affiliate program “Work in Burke,” Burke Development, Inc., Western Piedmont Community College, Burke County Public Schools, NCWorks Career Center – Burke County, N.C. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Meridian Specialty Yarn Group, Inc.

The Local Innovation Fund is an initiative of the NCWorks Commission, the state workforce development board, and the Division of Workforce Solutions within the N.C. Department of Commerce who helps to administer the fund.

“In the spirit of our First in Talent Plan, the NCWorks Local Innovation Fund supports projects that help connect underserved populations to the education and workforce system, while focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders, who is also a member of the NCWorks Commission. “We are excited to see how these two innovative partnerships implement their great ideas to provide Work-Based Learning and strengthen their communities’ talent pipelines.”

Governor Cooper’s NC Job Ready workforce initiative is built on three core principles: skills and education attainment so North Carolinians are ready for jobs available now and in the future, employer leadership to remain relevant to evolving industry needs, and local innovation to take great ideas and apply them statewide. Governor Cooper first launched the NCWorks Local Innovation Fund in 2018, and the fund supported six local partnerships with grants starting in 2019.

The Local Innovation Fund’s new grants will support North Carolina’s First in Talent Plan, which seeks to prepare workers for career and entrepreneurial success, prepare businesses for success by growing and attracting a talented workforce, and prepare communities to be more competitive. The NCWorks Commission’s strategic plan also includes a goal of promoting the replication of creative solutions by supporting local innovation.

The 37-member NCWorks Commission includes representatives from the business community, heads of state workforce agencies, educators and community leaders. The Commission, which is designated as the state’s Workforce Development Board under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, recommends policies and strategies to enable the state’s workforce and businesses to compete in the global economy.

For more information on the grants, visit www.commerce.nc.gov/local-innovation.