Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Pitt County Area Partnership Wins $125,000 NCWorks Local Innovation Grant to Support Reentry

Raleigh, N.C.
Jun 26, 2024

A partnership in the Pitt County area is the winner of a competitive grant totaling $125,000 to support an innovative effort addressing reentry workforce challenges, Governor Roy Cooper announced today.

The grant recipient, “Keeping It REEL (Re-Entry Entrepreneurship and work-based Learning),” will seek to train people who were formerly incarcerated to build new careers and potentially start their own businesses. The two-year implementation grant comes from the NCWorks Local Innovation Fund, which Governor Cooper established as part of his NC Job Ready initiative to prepare North Carolina’s workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

“When we give North Carolinians a second chance and help them transition to new opportunities, we make our communities safer, while also meeting business’ needs for skilled workers,” Governor Cooper said. “I applaud these grant recipients for their creative approaches to hiring that are a model for North Carolina and the country.”

“Keeping it REEL” will combine life skills, occupational skills and entrepreneurship training, work-based learning, coaching and mentoring. The partnership plans to provide participants with up to 480 hours of paid work experience, in a manner similar to an internship, at participating employers. In what is essentially a “long-term job interview,” the participant gains experience and earns income, while the employer fills a key role in their organization at no cost. Meanwhile, participants will also learn about entrepreneurship and how to develop a business plan, giving them the ability to build their own future. This will put program completers in a position to potentially hire other individuals with justice system involvement and become “second-chance” employers themselves. Increasing the number of second-chance employers is among North Carolina’s “Reentry2030” initiative goals, which Governor Cooper announced in his Executive Order No. 303 earlier this year.

Partners in “Keeping it REEL” will include Rivers East Workforce Development Board and the local NCWorks Career Centers overseen by the board, Pitt County Reentry Council, Pitt Community College, the East Carolina University Crisp Small Business Resource Center and NC IDEA.

The Local Innovation Fund is an initiative of the NCWorks Commission, the state workforce development board, while the Division of Workforce Solutions within the N.C. Department of Commerce helps administer the fund.

“Investing in the people of North Carolina and supporting their aspirations to become entrepreneurs will strengthen our economy,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders, who is also a member of the NCWorks Commission. “We have prioritized both reentry and work-based learning at the Department of Commerce, and we are excited to see this partnership join the many innovative workforce programs moving forward across our state.”

Governor Cooper’s NC Job Ready workforce initiative is built on three core principles: skills and education attainment so North Carolinians are ready for jobs available now and in the future, employer leadership to remain relevant to evolving industry needs, and local innovation to take great ideas and apply them statewide.  

Local Innovation Fund grants support North Carolina’s First in Talent Plan, which seeks to prepare workers for career and entrepreneurial success, prepare businesses for success by growing and attracting a talented workforce, and prepare communities to be more competitive. The NCWorks Commission’s strategic plan also includes a goal of promoting the replication of creative solutions by supporting local innovation.

The 37-member NCWorks Commission includes representatives from the business community, heads of state workforce agencies, educators and community leaders. The Commission, which is designated as the state’s Workforce Development Board under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, recommends policies and strategies to enable the state’s workforce and businesses to compete in the global economy.

The source of funding for this new Local Innovation grant is the State Fiscal Recovery Fund (SFRF), a component of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) which provided $5.4 billion to North Carolina to help turn the tide on the pandemic, address its economic fallout, and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable recovery.

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