New Initiative Aims to Help Triad Young Adults Find Jobs and Educational Opportunities | Local

A high-profile UNC system initiative to better connect young adults to education and employment opportunities will focus on the triad, including in Forsyth County.

The Carolina Across 100 initiative was unveiled in April 2021 by UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.

A network of 13 groups was selected to provide assistance to a total of 37 counties, including a Triad group focused on public school systems in Alamance, Davie, Forsyth, Rockingham, Surry, Stokes and Yadkin counties.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools spokesman Chris Runge said he was checking to see if the system had been contacted about the initiative.

It should last at least five years, under the direction of ncIMPACT. The plan is to “support community recovery and build sustainable efforts across all 100 counties by providing human resources, data insights, coaching, facilitation, coordination efforts and program design” .

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The ncIMPACT initiative is a statewide effort launched by the UNC School of Government in 2017 to help local communities use data and evidence to improve conditions and inform decision-making.

The “Our State, Our Work” spin-off focused on young adults was announced in March and is expected to run for at least two years. New details were revealed last week.

“As our state addresses the inequalities created and exacerbated by COVID-19, Carolina Across 100 will connect young people with educational and gainful employment opportunities in North Carolina by bringing together community leaders from across the state to collaborate and strengthen each other,” Guskiewicz said in a statement.

A living wage is generally quoted in the range of $13 to $15 per hour, compared to the minimum wage of $7.25 in North Carolina.

The aim is to make university resources available “to help communities deal with the challenges expected after COVID-19”, while helping people aged 16 to 24 find paying jobs. decent.

“It’s good to see our flagship university embracing community engagement in a systematic way across the state,” said Keith Debbage, assistant professor of geography and sustainable tourism and hospitality at UNCG.

“It is crucial that the UNC-Chapel Hill program does not duplicate and duplicate what local communities are already doing, but rather complement and assist in order to increase competitive advantage.”

Speakers

In most cases, the 13 participating groups are made up of business, civic, educational, nonprofit, faith-based, and government entities.

“Each community determines who needs to be on their team to build an effective and sustainable system to support these young adults as they reconnect to education and work opportunities,” said Anita Brown-Graham, director of the ncIMPACT initiative and lead coordinator of Carolina Across. 100,

The Piedmont Triad Regional Workforce Development Council is leading the local effort in establishing the Triad Career Connect model.

“This model creates labor opportunities and exposure to regional employers of interest by collaborating with programs, such as NCWorks’ NextGen program,” the council said.

The council said that since beginning its NextGen effort in 2019, the local program has helped 50 students.

“The collaboration takes advantage of the huge opportunity for collaboration between counties through resource sharing and streamlined, complementary programs,” the Workforce Development Council said.

Triad counties applied to participate through the Piedmont Triad Regional Workforce Development Council. Counties could have asked to participate individually.

Davidson and Guilford counties did not apply, according to Jessica Dorrance, research director for ncIMPACT.

“While we are extremely excited to work with all of the counties selected for the program, we will be creating and sharing resources from this work that we hope will benefit all counties across the state. “said Dorrance.

“One goal is to share the lessons we learn from working with community collaborations and enable other counties to implement and adapt those lessons in a way that works best for them.”

Motivation

The initial and ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on work opportunities for young adults spurred the UNC-Chapel Hill initiative.

The group said the unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds jumped to 24.4% in the first months of the pandemic in 2020, compared to 11.3% for those aged 25 and over.

“Those with the lowest levels of education – below a high school diploma – have the worst,” according to the group.

However, the group cites that the education and employment challenges facing 16 to 24-year-olds predate the pandemic in North Carolina.

“16 to 24 year olds not in school or working had a higher percentage of people living in poverty in 2019,” the group said.

Brown-Graham said the initial goal was to have up to 20 counties participate.

“We are thrilled that 37 counties have made a clear commitment to partner with us on this premier program to connect young adults to educational opportunities and gainful employment,” Brown-Graham said.

The goals

Carolina Across 100 said it will provide the 13 groups with “a variety of high-value resources,” including:

Evidence-based programs aimed at meeting the educational and non-academic needs of Opportunity Youth, those in the 16-24 age group;

Highly requested micro-certificate training;

Marketing expertise for existing programs;

Guided listening sessions with Opportunity Youth participants;

Technical assistance and resources for employers seeking to hire and retain Opportunity Youth participants;

Storytelling techniques for sharing the experiences and triumphs of Opportunity Youth;

Information on funding opportunities; and

Writing Assistance Grant.

The participating groups will begin their work later this month, then meet for the first in a series of forums at UNC-Chapel Hill in mid-September.

Forums are organized so that groups can share ideas and collaborate on best practices.

The Carolina Across 100 team will conduct site visits to participating counties to facilitate program implementation.

Challenges

The Our State, Our Work initiative faces several systemic education and employment challenges that existed long before the pandemic, but have worsened in the past 26 months.

“Along with the labor shortage, there has been a reallocation of labor,” said Michael Walden, professor of economics at NC State University.

“For example, it is estimated that at least 10% of workers in hospitality, warehousing and manufacturing businesses before the pandemic learned new skills that allowed them to move into higher paying occupations.”

These are employment sectors typically occupied by young adults seeking their first real-world work experiences, especially those who will not have a college degree.

Walden said that while many businesses and nonprofit health groups are raising their minimum wages to a range of $12 to $22 an hour, other companies haven’t planned wage increases to help. their employees to stay the same or outpace inflation.

Walden said that for 2021 and so far in 2022, hourly wage gains in these industry sectors “have barely kept up with the rising rate of inflation.”

With the state’s unemployment rate at a pandemic low of 3.4% in April, “it’s hard to imagine the overall unemployment rate dropping even further,” said Patrick McHugh, research director at NC Budget. and Tax Center, from left.

“There are certainly a lot of counties with room to bring the unemployment rate down. The total labor force size in more than half of North Carolina counties remains below pre-COVID-19 levels.

McHugh said that in “some of the hottest job markets, it’s really about getting more people back into the job market, which isn’t going to bring the unemployment rate down much, if at all.” everything”.

Walden said the Our State, Our Work initiative should focus on the need for worker training.

“There’s a broad consensus among economists that more disruption is coming to the labor market,” Walden said.

“It’s not just because of the pandemic, but also because of rapid changes in technology, which will cause companies to reassess what machines and technology can do versus what humans can do.”

Disruptions Abound

These types of education and employment initiatives need to be nimble and quick to respond to trends and employer needs, Walden said.

“The two things needed to successfully deal with this coming disruption will be identifying the necessary skills that companies will want in a worker and providing rapid training in those skills, both for existing workers who find that their jobs has been reduced and for new workers who want to quickly enter the workforce without spending years in the classroom,” said Walden.

“This rapid training could be delivered through existing educational institutions, particularly high schools and community colleges, and/or through on-the-job apprenticeships.”

Rural counties stand to be the primary beneficiaries of the One State One Work initiative, said John Quinterno, director of South by North Strategies Ltd., a Chapel Hill research firm specializing in economic and social policy.

“Young adults who have not completed high school and who are not working face long-term challenges in building a strong foundation and a future for themselves,” Quinterno said.

“Particularly in more rural communities, this can create long-term challenges for local employers and communities at large.”

Quinterno said that to the extent that UNC-Chapel Hill initiatives “can help supplement existing resources and fill gaps in existing initiatives at the community level, these initiatives are more likely to succeed.

“This task appears consistent with the university’s public service mission to the people of North Carolina.”

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