Friday, October 14, 2022

Governor Cooper Honors Excellence in Workforce Development

Raleigh, N.C.
Oct 14, 2022

Today, Governor Roy Cooper announced that a manufacturer, a community partnership and five individual North Carolinians have won NCWorks Awards of Distinction for outstanding accomplishments and contributions related to workforce development. The recipients were recognized on Thursday, Oct. 13, during a ceremony held in Greensboro as part of the 35th annual NCWorks Partnership Conference. 

"These award winners have overcome adversity and inspired us with their determination to gain new career skills and expand opportunities for others," said Governor Cooper. "For North Carolina to be 'First in Talent' we must work to remove barriers to the great paying jobs being created in our state so that all people have opportunities for success." 

The NCWorks Partnership Conference, organized by the N.C. Department of Commerce, brought together almost 700 workforce development professionals from across the state, for the first in-person event of its kind since 2019. Attendees represented labor, state and federal government, education, community-based organizations, community colleges and the private sector.

The Governor’s NCWorks Awards of Distinction honor outstanding examples from the state’s workforce development system - including the students and jobseekers who receive training, the professionals who provide career services, and the employers and other organizations that support a skilled workforce. Awards were presented to the following recipients:

  • Tabitha Arrowood of Morganton: Outstanding Adult. With support from a workforce training scholarship through the NCWorks Career Center in Burke County, Arrowood graduated from the Interpreter Education program at Western Piedmont Community College in 2021, as the first college graduate in her family. She remained focused on her educational goals while also working two jobs and raising two young children as a single mother. Arrowood draws upon her personal experience of growing up as the only hearing person in a household where all her other family members were deaf. Therefore, American Sign Language was her primary language at home. Upon graduating from WPCC, Arrowood obtained her state Transliterator license and worked at the college for a time, assisting deaf and hard-of-hearing students. She also served as a staff interpreter for the N.C. School for the Deaf. More recently, she has joined Purple Communications as a sign language interpreter. 
  • Joshua Swindells of Mocksville: Outstanding Young Adult. Born with a condition that rendered him legally blind and growing up in economic distress, Swindells has overcome numerous obstacles. In the fall of 2020, he enrolled in the high school equivalency program at Davidson-Davie Community College and in the NCWorks “NextGen” youth program through Piedmont Triad Regional Workforce Development Board. The NextGen program helped Swindells complete his high school credential and obtain a better job, as he rose to become a manager at a local grocery store. That success led Swindells to enroll as a full-time student at DDCC. In one year, he had gone from having an eighth-grade education to holding a high school diploma and becoming the first person in his family to attend college. He has excelled academically at the college and was awarded a scholarship allowing him to study abroad in France in the summer of 2022. Swindells plans to earn an associate’s degree in Information Technology at DDCC and transfer to UNC-Charlotte to study Computer Science and Criminal Justice, with a goal of working in the field of cyber security.
  • Levi Blanchard of Kings Mountain: Outstanding Teen. With support from the NCWorks “NextGen” youth program through Foothills Workforce Development Board, Blanchard has completed the Adult High School program at Cleveland Community College, continued his education and obtained employment. His youth program case manager provided Blanchard with strategies, guidance and counseling that helped him graduate with his adult high school diploma in 2021. He has also participated in leadership development, soft skills training and financial literacy through the workforce program, and has begun postsecondary education, again at Cleveland Community College. NCWorks has given Blanchard the opportunity, and the support, to pursue a college degree in Business Administration without having to take on debt. His dream is to one day start his own business.
  • Jalie Phifer of Durham: Wayne Daves Award for Outstanding Achievement in Workforce Development. Phifer is a talent development program assistant at the Capital Area NCWorks Career Center in Raleigh. She is part of a team that provides virtual employment services to customers through the “Access NCWorks” contact center. Her responsibilities include providing referrals and guidance to customers, assisting customers with navigating NCWorks Online, creating profiles, registering jobseekers in NCWorks, providing overviews of NCWorks programs and services, completing initial assessments and enrollments, helping people develop resumes, providing labor market information, and assisting with scholarship and training information for in-demand jobs. Phifer also serves as the career center’s Limited English Proficiency staff person and fulfills the role of an administrative assistant for the Talent Development Department. Colleagues appreciate her thoughtful, positive demeanor, attention to detail and commitment to superior customer service -- whether customers are served in-person or not.
  • Al Searles of Warsaw: Bill Ragland Private Sector Award for Outstanding Achievement in Workforce Development. Searles, the senior director of logistics and transportation with Smithfield Hog Production, is a member of the Eastern Carolina Workforce Development Board, currently serving in his second term as board chair. He joined ECWDB in 2011 and has served in various leadership capacities, championing workforce development causes to build a talent pipeline that results in upward mobility and success for individuals and businesses. Earlier, Searles was also the chair for the region’s Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics career pathways efforts, and in this role, he brought industry leaders together to address solutions for workforce challenges. He represents North Carolina on the national level as a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB). His decades of workforce experience in the private sector bring an invaluable perspective to the ECWDB, the NCWorks system and the national workforce development community. Searles speaks with passion about education and training and enjoys collaborating with economic development organizations, school systems and other partners to meet the community’s talent needs.
  • STI – Kings Plush, Inc. of Kings Mountain: Outstanding Employer. STI Fabrics, a local, family-owned business that manufactures and distributes one of the most in-demand performance fabrics in the home furnishings industry, is a major employer and community partner in workforce development. For several years, the company has worked with the Gaston Correctional Center’s work release program to provide a variety of job opportunities for inmates. Several of these workers have joined STI as full-time employees after they reentered the community. In March 2022, STI sponsored a successful local event with the N.C. Department of Public Safety as an example of the company’s commitment to the justice-involved population. Called “In Their Shoes: A Prison-to-Community Simulation,” the event included participants from community colleges, resource agencies, local industries, the judicial system, community corrections, and chambers of commerce. The simulation was designed to show the public how difficult it is to navigate society upon release from jail or prison. Meanwhile, during the past year, STI has opened up opportunities for high school students to work part-time. This allows them to become knowledgeable about manufacturing and could lead to full-time positions in the future. STI also offers apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training.
  • SHYAS Community Assistance Program of Salisbury: Outstanding Innovative Partnership. S&H Youth and Adult Services (SHYAS), an outpatient mental health and substance use treatment facility specializing in addiction and trauma, has partnered with the NCWorks Career Center in Rowan County to offer an innovative partnership. The SHYAS Community Assistance Program (CAP) includes developing a “Reemployment Plan-of-Action,” which helps participants who are justice-involved and/or in substance use recovery to get back into the workforce. The program is helping employers in need of staff, while also helping participants to achieve more economic security. In addition, the partners have helped raise awareness among local businesses about inclusive hiring and helped to conduct the Rowan County Second Chance Job Fair in 2021. Twelve individuals who received CAP services were matched with jobs through that event.

This is a WIOA Title I program/project, which is supported by the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor as part of an award totaling $66,717,353, with 0% financed from non-governmental sources.

Related Topics: