The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Carolina Across 100 initiative announced on Wednesday the selection of 13 groups in North Carolina to expand education and employment pathways for young adults. The groups – made up of business, civic, education, nonprofit, faith-based and government entities representing 37 counties from the mountains to the coast – will receive a variety of supports from the University, all aimed at connecting North Carolina’s young adults to jobs that pay a living wage.
Carolina’s supports are a response to the disruption in the US labor market following the onset of COVID-19. Nationally, the overall unemployment rate for workers 16-24 jumped to 24.4% in spring 2020 versus 11.3% for workers 25 and older. Those with the lowest levels of education – below a high school diploma – fared the worst. Already, “Opportunity Youth,” those 16-24 year olds who are not in school or working, had a higher percentage of people living in poverty than non-Opportunity Youth in 2019.
Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz announced the program, entitled “Our State, Our Work” in March.
“The University is eager to enhance partnerships and create new opportunities for members of our workforce,” Guskiewicz said. “As our state addresses inequities created and exacerbated by COVID-19, Carolina Across 100 will connect young people with education and living-wage employment opportunities in North Carolina by bringing community leaders from across the state together to collaborate and bolster one another’s work.”
The 13 selected groups represent urban, suburban and rural areas covering 37 North Carolina counties working together to tackle the challenge of inspiring youth aged 16-24 to pursue education or paid work.
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.”
Carolina Across 100’s team will provide the groups with a variety of high value resources, including:
- evidence-based programming aimed at meeting educational and non-academic needs of Opportunity Youth
- career counseling
- high demand micro credential training
- marketing expertise for existing programs
- guided listening sessions with Opportunity Youth
- technical assistance and resources for employers seeking to hire and retain Opportunity Youth
- local program managers
- storytelling techniques to share the experiences and triumphs of Opportunity Youth
- information on funding opportunities
- grant writing assistance
Teams will meet for a kick-off in mid-June, and for their first forum at UNC-Chapel Hill in mid-September.
Throughout the two-year 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 initiative, 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 initiative launched by the UNC School of Government in 2017 to help local communities use data and evidence to improve conditions and inform decision making.