College Partnering in Two Projects for Opportunity Youth - Wayne Community College | Goldsboro, NC

College Partnering in Two Projects for Opportunity Youth

June 30, 2022

Wayne Community College is a member of two groups selected to participate in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Carolina Across 100 initiative.

They are among the 13 groups representing 37 counties that will participate in Our State, Our Work, a two-year collaborative learning model coordinated by the ncIMPACT Initiative and the first Carolina Across 100 program.

The participating teams will receive a variety of resources from the university, all aimed at connecting North Carolina’s “Opportunity Youth” – 16-24-year-olds who are not in school or working – to education and pathways to jobs that pay a living wage.

WCC is a member of a team led by Wayne County Public Library that will address the needs of Opportunity Youth across Wayne County. Other core partners for the project are Communities Supporting Schools of Wayne County, Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, and Wayne County Public Schools.

Library Director Donna Phillips said, “Using a collective impact model, Wayne County Public Library, alongside its key partners, will mobilize community stakeholders to expand educational opportunities and provide meaningful workforce development experiences intended to place Opportunity Youth on a pathway to success.”

The college is also a partner in the Eastern Carolina Workforce Development Board’s project, along with other community colleges, public schools, and community organizations in the board’s service area of Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Pamlico, and Wayne counties.

“Our goal is to find those youth who are not enrolled in school or engaged in the workforce and present them with education and training options that will lead to good wages and a bright future,” said Tammy Childers, ECWDB executive director.

“Engaging our young people is vital to our community. Wayne Community College has worked with the target population of youth ages 16 – 24 for many years, but now we get to join forces with great Wayne County agencies and organizations to make an even greater impact. This is a huge win for our county and the youth we will serve,” said Renita Allen Dawson, WCC vice president for workforce continuing education and community engagement.

“Additionally, we will continue to support the work of Eastern Carolina Workforce Development Board as our nine-county region bands together to strengthen our commitment to serving Opportunity Youth by providing work experience opportunities, education and training, and supportive services with the support of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Carolina Across 100 team,” Dawson said.

According to the Carolina Across 100 program, the university’s supports are a response to the disruption in the U.S. labor market following the onset of COVID-19. Nationally, the overall unemployment rate for workers 16-24 jumped to 24.4 percent in spring 2020 versus 11.3 percent for workers 25 and older. Those with the lowest levels of education – below a high school diploma – fared the worst. Opportunity Youth already had a higher percentage of people living in poverty than non-Opportunity Youth in 2019.

Anita Brown-Graham, director of the ncIMPACT Initiative and lead coordinator for Carolina Across 100, said she was impressed by the optimistic approaches suggested by the groups who applied.

“In their applications and interviews, communities expressed great enthusiasm about the resources Carolina Across 100 will bring to strengthen their work,” Brown-Graham said. “Our goal was to reach 20 counties, so we are thrilled that 37 counties made clear their commitment to partner with us for this first program to connect young adults to educational opportunities and living-wage employment.”

Throughout the program, the 13 teams will meet for a series of forums to coalesce around a shared vision for their collaborative efforts to support Opportunity Youth, engage in cross-collaborative learning with other communities, and identify, plan for, and gather resources to sustain and expand their efforts over the long-term. The Carolina Across 100 team will also conduct site visits across participating counties to facilitate the program’s implementation.

Carolina Across 100 is a five-year venture, led by the ncIMPACT Initiative, seeking to support community-driven recovery and build sustainable efforts in all 100 counties by providing human resources, data insights, coaching, facilitation, coordination efforts, and program design. Our State, Our Work is the first program in this larger initiative.

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

Wayne Community College is a public, learning-centered institution with an open-door admission policy located in Goldsboro, N.C. As it works to develop a highly skilled and competitive workforce, the college serves 10,000 individuals annually as well as businesses, industry, and community organizations with high quality, affordable, accessible learning opportunities, including more than 165 college credit programs. WCC’s mission is to meet the educational, training, and cultural needs of the communities it serves.