Category: Employment and Labor Market (page 1 of 2)

Transitioning Veterans to the Civilian Workforce – Craven County

The Challenge

North Carolina has the fourth-largest active duty military presence nationally at 778,000 and the eighth-largest veteran population at over 683,000. However, according to a recent study by Wallethub, North Carolina currently ranks 21st in the nation for “ability to provide a comfortable military retirement,” behind neighboring Virginia and South Carolina (which rank second and fifth respectively). The ranking is based on 27 metrics clustered into three categories: economic environment, quality of life, and access to health care. In economic environment, North Carolina ranks 31st. In North Carolina, 32,000 veterans are unemployed, and 48,000 have income below the poverty level, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, seven percent of veterans are homeless (which is 12 percent of the of the state’s adult homeless population).

Gainful employment via owning one’s own business also lags for veterans. Veteran-owned small businesses have 16% lower sales than those of the same size owned by nonveterans, and veterans have more difficulty accessing capital and social networks. Read more from Military Times. Veteran business owners reported lower credit scores on average, as well as a greater rate of credit denial, driven by insufficient credit history and frequent moves. Another of the potential drivers of this gap is that many veterans relocate somewhere other than their hometown after serving – where they may not have networks and have to build them from scratch. Therefore, business and networking skills are key to improving self-employment prospects for veterans transitioning into civilian life.


The Solution

Craven County is home to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, a base that provides aerial support and maintenance for the Marine Corps and employs thousands of active duty military members. Craven County has a significant number of veteran residents, at 16% of the total adult population, which necessitates that many local resources are designed to meet the needs of veterans. Given the importance of MCAS Cherry Point and large veteran population, the county implemented a program to help veterans make the switch from the military to civilian jobs. Craven Community College is recognized as a leader in helping veterans transition to the civilian workforce via their Veteran Transition and Preparatory Training Program (VTPT).

VTPT has two arms, including the Military Academic Skills Program, which opens up further employment and education opportunities by improving academic skills. The course focuses on reading, grammar, and mathematics skills. In the second program, Tools for Advanced Manufacturing, veterans learn how to transfer military skills and experience to civilian careers in the manufacturing sector. The Tools for Advanced Manufacturing for Veterans (TAMV) class teaches participants how to transfer their military skills and experience onto their resume in language recognized by manufacturing employers. Veterans receive training in both hard and soft skills, and upon completion receive important certifications they can use when applying for manufacturing jobs. Both programs’ classes meet every weekday for 8 hours over a three-week period and are open to military spouses. The goal of the program is to ease students’ transitions into civilian life and connect them with job opportunities in North Carolina.

Source: UNC-TV. Boots to Business seminar at MCAS Cherry Point

To address disparities in veteran self-employment, Craven Community College and MCAS Cherry Point also offer programs that teach business essentials. One example, Boots to Business, is a cooperative program that allows students to learn essential skills needed to start and run their own business. Also open to military dependents, this program is offered multiple times a year to meet the needs of transitioning service members and their families. Wanda Bennett, the seminar’s instructor, says that veterans are often successful in entrepreneurial ventures because they “have a skill set coming out of the military that many civilians don’t have… [including] discipline, training, integrity, clarity, and excellence.” She says this program allows veterans to direct these skills toward running their own businesses, helping them with the confidence they need to succeed with self-employment.


The Players

Craven Community College and MCAS Cherry Point are the key partners in these innovative preparation programs, focusing on developing the individual skills of veterans. On the employer side, North Carolina for Military Employment (NC4ME) is a comprehensive public-private partnership designed to make North Carolina the number one state for military employment. Established in 2015, NC4ME leverages existing workforce development resources and technology, including the Department of Commerce and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, to implement an employer-centric strategy that:

  • Educates NC business leaders on the value of hiring a military workforce,
  • Shows small businesses and human resource professionals how to hire military personnel, and
  • Connects military talent to open jobs, education, and training opportunities in North Carolina.

NC4ME also serves as an umbrella for over 1,000 veteran-focused organizations in NC, assisting veterans with navigating resources while simultaneously assisting employers in hiring them.

Source: UNC-TV. Aerial training simulation at Craven Community College satellite campus on MCAS Cherry Point.


The Promise

Ray Staats, President of Craven Community College, says their focus on segments of the population that are unique to their community allowed the College to develop its veteran-focused programs. Although he acknowledges that some veteran students will move away once their service ends, his hope is that Craven County’s welcoming atmosphere and veteran-focused programming will encourage many to stay in the area, enhancing the local workforce and economy. Staats says that flexibility and a local focus will allow the College to continue serving this transitioning population.

Kimberly Williams of NC4ME says the state should keep transitioning service members in North Carolina because it is key to economic development in the state. She says veterans could fill important workforce gaps in North Carolina if they are able to market their skills to employers. Williams says despite some perceptions that service members are only trained for combat, “the reality is that [service members] are attorneys. They do logistics, statistics, accounting, food service, travel – the military is a business.” This makes their skills directly transferable to the civilian workforce, if they are connected with companies that need qualified employees. Through education, training, and an employer-focused network, Craven Community College, MCAS Cherry Point, and NC4ME are partnering to ensure that veterans are staying and thriving in North Carolina communities.

Building a Local Talent Pipeline – Alamance County

The Challenge

The ability to recruit and retain a skilled workforce is vital in today’s economy. Local employers in Alamance County need to build a talent pipeline from within the local labor market. Approximately one-third of residents ages 25-64 attain a postsecondary degree. Employers and the school system recognize the need to expand the talent pipeline for manufacturing specifically. Companies need workers with more specialized skills than what is learned in high school. Human resource managers complain it’s difficult to find enough qualified applicants for vacant positions created by a tight labor market and the surge of retirements from the Baby Boomer segment of the workforce.

The state’s labor force participation rate declined from 68% in 2000 to 62% in 2018, even while its total labor force grew over the last several years in correlation with population growth. According to the NC Department of Commerce Labor & Economic Analysis Division, the aging population accounts for nearly two-thirds of this decline, but disparities persist between demographic groups. Black and Hispanic workers had unemployment rates of 5.5% and 4.7%, respectively, while the unemployment rate for non-Hispanic whites was 2.8%

The term disconnected youth refers to teens and young adults ages 16-24 who are not enrolled in school or participating in the formal workforce. This population represents a large source of potential talent for the workforce. Eleven percent (11%) of residents in Alamance County ages 16-24 are not in school or working. The United Health Foundation’s Measure of America report states, “The limited education, lack of work experience, minimal professional networks and social exclusion of disconnected youth have consequences into adulthood and may affect earnings and self-sufficiency, physical and mental health, and relationship quality and family formation.”

The Solution

The Career Accelerator Program (CAP) is a four-year apprenticeship program that both addresses the immediate need for skilled workers and seeks to grow the next generation of leaders in manufacturing facilities in the Alamance County area. Launched in 2016, the program offers technical career opportunities to motivated high school students and provides them employment after their graduation. Partner companies train these apprentices to fit their highly-skilled, technical job needs, and the students graduate with a guaranteed job and valuable postsecondary credentials. CAP is largely patterned after the award-winning Apprenticeship 2000 program in the Charlotte region and the North Carolina Training Apprenticeship Program in the Research Triangle region.

The estimated scholarship value of a CAP apprenticeship is $140,000. The program is an intensive, four-year, in-depth combination of on-the-job training at the partner company’s facility and classroom learning at Alamance Community College. CAP works closely with the Career Development Coordinators (CDCs) at participating local high schools. These CDCs and other core subject teachers make referrals to the program. In addition, each fall, CAP representatives hold informational sessions for all faculty and staff, as well as interested students and their parents or guardians. After learning about the CAP apprenticeship requirements and timeline (either at a session or by talking to a CDC), students and their families are required to take a facility tour at a minimum of one CAP company. Thereafter, the student applies to be a CAP apprentice.

Graduates of the program begin with a salary of $35,000, which is higher than the median earnings for Alamance County residents ages 25 and over with some college or an associate degree. During their first year as apprentices, seniors in high school attend school for two classes in either the morning or afternoon and then train at the partner companies for the remainder of the day. Once apprentices have graduated from high school, they work Monday through Thursday at the companies and attend classes on Friday at Alamance Community College (ACC). Apprentices receive training at ACC in the following areas: electrical, mechanical, computer technologies, physics, mathematics, automation, and robotics. At the end of the four years, an apprentice will have an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Mechatronics Engineering Technology, a Journeyman Certificate from the N.C. Department of Commerce, and four years (6,400 hours) of on-the-job training. An apprentice is paid for hours worked at the company both during the high school year and after graduation. After graduation, the apprentice is paid for time spent in classes at ACC. Employers also pay for books, fees, and tuition.

The Players

Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce coordinates the program. Alamance Community College offers an associate in applied science degree in mechatronics engineering technology, as well as additional training opportunities for stackable certificates and elective classes. Alamance-Burlington School System provides career development coordinators, who work with the students enrolled in high school. Ten partner companies host onsite apprenticeship training and mentors employed by the companies support and train apprentices onsite.


The Promise

This program allows students to obtain a degree and valuable, relevant job experience at relatively no cost to them or their families. Even after the apprenticeship ends, students can take advantage of the tuition reimbursement program offered by every participating employer. There are limits to how much a program that is as human resource-intensive as CAP can scale in Alamance County, but the value extends beyond the number of apprentices. CAP spawned new priorities for alignment and exploration of additional ways to build a talent pipeline for manufacturing in the region.

Applications for the program increase each year, with 400 students attending information sessions in the third year of the program’s existence. The current apprentices deserve much of the credit for the awareness and excitement about the program. They are happy to attend informational sessions and talk to students during facility tours. They also serve as ambassadors in less formal ways and places. One apprentice explained that he just can’t stop talking about the program.

An increasing number of companies also seek to join the program. CAP started with seven companies. They now have ten, with others lined up to join. Companies recognize that, in addition to the apprentices, there is value in the exposure that comes from participating in CAP — especially in a tight labor market. Families hear about participating companies at informational sessions and have a chance to tour individual companies with students. Often, family members themselves end up applying for positions.

ncIMPACT Town Hall: Constructing North Carolina’s Creative Placemaking Economy, Premieres Thursday, January 30 at 7pm

The ncIMPACT Initiative at the UNC School of Government partnered with UNC-Charlotte’s Urban Institute, Destination Cleveland County, UNC-TV, and Civic Federal Credit Union to highlight efforts in the Shelby region to leverage cultural resources for economic development. The broadcast will offer a great way to help leaders in other regions of the state better understand how communities like Shelby are using creative placemaking strategies to strengthen their local economy.

“Creative placemaking is a process where community members, artists, arts and culture organizations, community developers, and other stakeholders use arts and cultural strategies to implement community-led change. This approach aims to increase vibrancy, improve economic conditions, and build capacity among residents to take ownership of their communities.” American Planning Association

According to the NC Arts Council, North Carolina’s creative industries are responsible for more than 417,000 jobs, representing 7 percent of the state’s workforce. These jobs generate $18 billion in wages, salaries and benefits. Creative Industries produce $29 billion in revenues and attract arts travelers who stay longer and spend more money while visiting various places.

Panelists for the ncIMPACT Town Hall filmed at the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby include:

  • Stan Anthony, Mayor, City of Shelby
  • David Dear, Co-Owner, Newgrass Brewing
  • Melanie Graham, Owner, Morgan and Wells Bed and Breakfast
  • Jeff Michael, Director, UNC-Charlotte Urban Institute
  • Brownie Plaster, Destination Cleveland County
  • Audrey Whetten, Executive Director, Uptown Shelby Association

These ongoing statewide ncIMPACT Town Hall events enhance the weekly ncIMPACT series. Just as we take ncIMPACT into communities, tackling problems head on by meeting with bold, positive change agents, the ncIMPACT town halls serve as a convening for a region’s residents, businesses, non-profits and government organizations to share their stories, ideas and solutions.

ncIMPACT is designed to get North Carolinians excited about these opportunities for creating positive change in their communities and in North Carolina. In addition to over-the-air broadcasts, the ncIMPACT series website features individual episodes, segments and web extras. Explore and access it anytime via

Shortage of Volunteer Firefighters

Did you know… Out of the 1,087 registered fire departments in North Carolina, more than 90% are volunteer or mostly volunteer departments? 

 The Challenge

Municipalities in North Carolina are struggling to recruit volunteer firefighters within their localities. This is likely due to a decrease in the time that residents have, as well as a decreasing interest in emergency services. As more people are finding themselves commuting to work, they are less likely to volunteer in any capacity. However, the most pressing issue for recruitment, is a lack of interest among young populations.

The Solution

When youth are introduced to firefighting curricula, they are more likely to engage as volunteers. This has led to an increase in educational opportunities about the work of firefighters, as well as training programs within schools. In Orange County, the best solution has been training those in high school and community college, which allows students to gain credits while also improving their community. Orange County’s programming for youth in the community has been very successful.

Orange County High School offers courses in three phases: “Fire Fighter Technology I, II, and III.  The completion of both Fire Fighter Technology I and II will cover modules required for all fire fighters in North Carolina.  Fire Fighter Technology I includes modules on Orientation & Safety, Health and Wellness, Portable Extinguishers, Foam Fire Streams, and Emergency Medical.  Fire Fighter Technology II includes modules on Building Construction, Ropes, Alarms & Communications, Forcible Entry, Ladders, Ventilation, and Loss Control.” This has allowed for students to get certified at a younger age, and to know what they want out of their careers sooner. Anywhere from eight to ten students will be involved during the semester.

By creating programming to recruit students to be volunteer firefighters, departments have been able to fill the gaps they have been seeing. Additionally, many schools have created junior firefighting programs, fire academies, and even fire camps for younger children. Bringing these two groups together is essential for success.

The Learning

As localities continue to push for an increase in the number of volunteer firefighters within their community, it will be essential to train folks at a young age. The sooner that kids and teenagers are in contact with fire education, the better. This will allow them to start considering volunteering in the present, as well as becoming a firefighter for their eventual occupation. Departments will need to consider new ways to reach youth in the community. One way to do this is through social media, whether that is through recruitment posts or “day in the life” videos. New and unique tools will be essential for recruitment and will ensure that the number of volunteer firefighters does not continue to decrease.

Reentry from Incarceration to Workforce

Did you know… As many as 60% of North Carolinians with a criminal record remain unemployed within one year of being released?

 The Challenge

As the number of individuals being incarcerated over time has increased, municipalities have been searching for new ways to address the issue. One of the biggest challenges to the prison system is that when people come out, they are rarely offered resources to restart their lives. From the lack of housing for those with a criminal charge, to struggles with transportation, to finding employment after incarceration, the system as it stands makes it hard for individuals to get back on their feet after stepping back into society.

The Solution

In Pitt County, leaders in the community were searching for a way to address the consistent struggle of people reentering society after incarceration. The solution they used was an entire network of organizations dedicated to decreasing barriers for those coming out of the prison system. Life of NC in Pitt County created two distinct programs that address reentry after incarceration. The first is called “Reentry” and is focused around Local Reentry Councils (LRC). This is a group of stakeholders that work to break down barriers around housing, case management, mental health counseling and more. Every Council finds their own location-based solutions that will be most successful for those in the areas. The goal is to “offer assistance and resources for offenders/formerly incarcerated individuals to become productive residents, reduce recidivism and victimization.”

Pitt County’s second solution is STRIVE NC, which focuses on employment skills, and has had more than 2,000 graduates since its creation in 2000. The success rate is incredibly high, with 75% of graduates fully employed. Bringing more people into the job market of Pitt County increases overall individual revenue, which benefits the economy. STRIVE brings government representatives, faith-based organizations, non-profit leaders, business community members, and so many more together to further the lives of residents after incarceration.

The Learning

As these Councils are being created across the state of North Carolina, it is becoming easier for other municipalities to follow suit. For those looking to create a program similar to Life of NC, the most important thing is bringing all relevant agencies into the conversation, whether or not programs similar to STRIVE NC or Reentry are being created. Additionally, the county has found success due to a break between employment and social aspects of reentry, as these are two separate but important challenges. Pitt County’s solution has been successful as everyone involved has participated in conversations, including those who have been incarcerated. Although bringing multiple stakeholders to the table is important as well, those who have experienced these programs bring the most important feedback to such innovations.

First Stop for Regional Sessions: Kannapolis

Regional Sessions Begin to Inform the North Carolina Strategic Economic Development Plan


On September 19, 2019, the ncIMPACT Initiative hosted the first of eight Regional Sessions to Inform the North Carolina Strategic Economic Development Plan on behalf of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. A session is available in each of the state’s prosperity zones. Please click here to see a complete list of regional sessions and register for the one you choose to attend.


For more information about this project and what you can expect at the regional sessions, please watch this brief video.


The regional sessions will be critical to creating the state’s new strategic economic development plan, which will guide policymakers and practitioners in their work to generate more economic prosperity to the state. We want to hear from you about what works in your region and what additional supports from the state could maximize opportunities. We expect rich discussions with a gathering of diverse stakeholders.


We started our first session in the beautiful Laureate Center with an inspiring message from Mayor Darrell Hinnant of Kannapolis.


We described the process and proposed themes for the plan, then provided a regional data profile for the Southwest Region and received very helpful feedback. One interesting data piece that elicited a lot of conversation was the rate of eligible children not being served with childcare assistance.



These numbers by county can be found here:


We are grateful to local leaders in the Southwest Region who participated. To register for one of the remaining regional sessions, please follow this link:

Accountable Care Communities Offer An Opportunity to Address Healthcare Disparities at the Systems Level

In a previous blog post, which you can find here, ncIMPACT shared information around NCCARE 360, an interdisciplinary referral tool being implemented in the state of North Carolina’s medical care systems. As we continue to research impacts of the health of a community, we find it increasingly important to look at the way data around how changes become integrated with existing cultural norms and daily lives of community members in North Carolina. NCCARE 360 is part of an effort to implement a model of Accountable Care Communities (ACCs).


ACCs aim to address health at the community level through addressing the social drivers of health and looks at health on a systems level to better coordinate healthcare with a wide variety of stakeholders within a community. This coordination includes involving non-traditional partners in health initiatives, such as faith communities and academic researchers. ACCs have an underlying value of authentic community engagement. In the context of the ACC model, it is not enough to go into communities and give out information. Stakeholders must work alongside communities to create a power dynamic that gives community members agency and self-determination. Under the ACC model, the goal is to elevate the voices of community members who are most impacted by health disparities. For example, specific race groups are more likely to experience disparities within population health–those voices need to be amplified within this model.



Health Inequities by Race

In fact, the data suggests that many health initiatives have historically neglected or taken advantage of specific race populations, such as the Native American and African American communities (see Black-White Disparities in Health Care Report, released by the American Medical Association[1]). Racial disparities in health begin even at the stage of conception. African American babies are more than twice as likely to die during childbirth than white or Hispanic babies in North Carolina. While white babies die at a rate of 5.4% in North Carolina (comparable to the Hispanic rate of 5.5%), Black babies die at a rate of 12.4% (see figure below from NCDHHS).



Maternal mortality rates are alarming in general, but when analyzed by race, it is evident that Black mothers have a totally different experience during pregnancy and childbirth than their racial counterparts. In 2013, in the state of North Carolina, the maternal mortality rates for Black and white women was almost the same, with the white racial category making a large jump up in rates and the Black racial category briefly falling. However, since then, the numbers have since diverged once more. Today, a Black woman in North Carolina is 3x as likely to die from giving birth than a white woman. From 1999-2013, Black women accounted for 49% of the deaths due to childbirth in the state of North Carolina, while African Americans make up 22% of the state’s population (

While working with the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust on their targeted health strategies, our interviews with experts repeatedly brought up the importance of cultural competency at the systems level to address disparity. For example, one anonymous interviewee we spoke with mentions struggles with healthcare perceptions for older African American men:

“He grew up in a time where he knew studies were being done on Black people. Telling him he needs to go to the doctor brings up distrust for him. Entering into those large facilities, he’s not inclined to do that. He needs a provider that looks like him and be able to come to a place that feels safe.”


These disparities are alarming and to begin addressing these health inequalities, research and reports indicate that strategically culturally appropriate care, community capacity building, and homegrown community leader involvement will all need to be present as a start to making the state’s health system more culturally appropriate. These non-traditional partnerships implemented in Accountable Care Communities will require a breaking down of walls for everyone involved–silos will need to be removed for an integrated community care system.

For more guidance on implementing the ACC model, please see the following guide, provided by Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and Duke Endowment, visit







Women in Construction

When more residents thrive, communities thrive.

Talent is essential for growth and competitiveness. When the potential of women is not fully harnessed, companies and communities lose out on skills, ideas, and perspectives that are critical for addressing challenges and maximizing new opportunities.

This reality is proving especially true in the construction sector for the greater Triangle industry, and communities are responding in innovative ways.

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Education and Skills for Tomorrow: Is Your Workforce “Future Ready”?

Earlier this month my colleague, Dave Brown, published a blog hinting that we, at ncIMPACT, are working on a Future Ready Communities Dashboard. Our current series of blog posts focuses on “What it means to be a Future Ready Community.”

Future Ready Communities will be successful because of their vibrancy, their interconnectedness, and their fluid structures for causing positive human collisions. They will be built on and for great ideas. These communities will lead based on their brain trust, and they will in turn become a magnet, attracting other good minds. The relational effect is clear: Good minds make a community great, and great communities attract good minds.

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Opioid Epidemic Ignores Boundaries in North Carolina

At its recent NC Rural Assembly titled “Claiming Our Future,” the NC Rural Center offered an important discussion on the opioid epidemic in North Carolina. Introduced by Dr. Anu Rao-Patel from Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, the session began with sobering statistics — including the fact that drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in NC (ahead of vehicular crashes). According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, the cost of unintentional opioid related overdose deaths in NC totaled $1.3 billion in 2015.

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