GLOW initiative seeing success in workforce training and job placements for people with barriers to employment | Eastern North Carolina Now | In June 2020, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded 10 projects totaling $3.49 million through the Golden LEAF Opportunities for Work (GLOW) initiative.

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    In June 2020, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded 10 projects totaling $3.49 million through the Golden LEAF Opportunities for Work (GLOW) initiative. To date, these 10 projects combined have served 699 people, resulting in 177 curriculum/continuing education program completers, 567 credentials earned, and 381 people employed.

    The GLOW special initiative was launched in January 2020 - when unemployment was low and North Carolina was experiencing significant job growth - to complement ongoing workforce development efforts. These programs help increase labor participation to fill the needs of employers by supporting adults with significant barriers to employment, the long-term unemployed, as well as underemployed workers in low-wage jobs, the previously incarcerated, and individuals in recovery from substance-use disorders reenter the workforce.

    Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) was awarded $358,000 in GLOW initiative funding by the Golden LEAF Board for "Project GAP - Granting Advanced Preparation." ECSU used this funding to establish an educational and support program that targets disconnected young adults ages 18-24, including women with dependent children, the long-term unemployed, single parents, foster care participants, high school dropouts, court-referred individuals, and academically at-risk ECSU students.

    "We developed Project GAP at a time when there were recognized workforce challenges in the community and region," said Gary Brown, ECSU Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. "We were thinking about ways to be innovative and support an underserved population by providing training and layered credentialing so that we could connect individuals who had the need to employers to attain quality employment."

    So far, Project Gap has served 132 people, resulting in 57 curriculum/continuing education program completers, 67 credentials earned, and 53 people employed. The majority of job placements have been in the Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Information Technology sectors.

    "Employers have been challenged with recruiting and retaining skilled workers," said Brown. "The collaborations we've been able to build between ECSU, local employers, and our workforce partnerships has helped ensure that those who have been unemployed or underemployed are now qualified for employment."

    Project GAP works in partnership with several entities, including NCWorks, River City YouthBuild, College of the Albemarle, Edgecombe Community College, Hockmeyer Equipment Corp., NextGen, Albemarle Pregnancy, and N.C. State Employees Credit Union.

    "ECSU is trying to make a difference in the local economy," said Brown. "It is very important to focus on the workforce needs and to try to be responsive to the needs that exist within our community."

    Project GAP program elements include a short-term, on-campus residential experience where participants will receive academic and vocational assessments followed by educational remediation as needed, hands-on training, career counseling, industry tours, employer recruitment, and job placement. Participants will have access to a comprehensive system of support provided during program participation and after program completion.

    Another GLOW initiative recipient is Wilkes Recovery Revolution. Wilkes Recovery Revolution was awarded $423,459 by the Golden LEAF Board for "H.O.W. - Healing Our Workforce" to connect individuals seeking recovery from substance use disorders to support services and employment.

    "Project HOW works to bridge barriers to employment by providing wrap-around services to those affected by substance use or mental health challenges," said Ariana Williamson, Project Coordinator for Project HOW. "We achieve this by providing transportation services, crisis assistance related to school programs and employment, as well as funding for short-term skills training and certification courses."

    To date, Wilkes Recovery Revolution has served 121 people and 33 have taken continuing education classes. The organization uses certified peer navigators to link individuals with community and agency referrals and help them find employment.

    "Through our steering committee, as well as through our Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative, we have found a unique and successful tool for engaging with employer partners," said Williamson. "The steering committee gave us the opportunity to speak with employers and recruiters to find out the qualities and programs of study needed. We were then able to cater pathways for our students based on this information."

    Wilkes Recovery Revolution has built strong community partnerships with Wilkes Community College, the NCWorks Career Centers, and Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina.

    "These partnerships have helped to support our efforts by connecting people with the resources and expertise available at these institutions," said Williamson. "Wilkes Community College has worked to support our students and to truly take a person-centered approach to creating pathways for our students. NCWorks has not only trained their staff to be more recovery friendly, but they have also trained our staff on low-barrier career pathways and areas of study for certain populations like those that are justice-involved."

    Goodwill Industries is not only a partner for the Wilkes Recovery Revolution but also a GLOW initiative recipient.

    "Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina has served on the Wilkes Recovery Revolution planning and steering committees, they have come to our center to offer unique skills training, they have supported our peers into employment, and they have partnered with us to supplement funding or program barriers our students may meet," said Williamson.

    Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina was awarded $434,850 by the Golden LEAF Board for the project "Rural Results," which provides funding for books and college fees not covered by WIOA and other available funding, unmet needs for items like work-related physicals, driver's license fees, etc., and childcare while the participants are in training. Careers in high demand for this region are Professional Truck Driver Training/CDL, Customer Service/Call Center, Forklift Operator, Nursing Assistant, Welding, Pharmacy Assistant, HVAC, and Facility Maintenance Technician.

    So far, Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina has served 264 people, resulting in 67 curriculum/ continuing education program completers, 264 credentials earned, and 198 people employed.
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