Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 00:00

Governor Cooper Honors Achievements in Workforce Development

Raleigh, N.C.
Oct 20, 2021

Today, Governor Roy Cooper announced that an innovative manufacturer, a virtual internship initiative, and four individual North Carolinians have won NCWorks Awards of Distinction for outstanding accomplishments and contributions related to workforce development. The recipients were recognized during the 34th annual NCWorks Partnership Conference, organized by the N.C. Department of Commerce and held this year in a virtual format.

“This year’s NCWorks award winners have risen to the challenges of the pandemic, and they inspire us with their resilience, leadership and dedication,” said Governor Cooper. “We must continue to focus on getting North Carolina job-ready, because a stronger, more inclusive workforce is the key to economic prosperity.”

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:

  • LaShea Carr of Hayesville: Outstanding Adult. While raising two daughters as a single mother in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carr persevered to complete the Nursing degree program at Tri-County Community College in the spring of 2021. The Tri-County NCWorks Career Center in Murphy supported Carr, particularly through a scholarship to help her complete her training. While enrolled as a full-time student, Carr also worked as a licensed phlebotomist at Union General Hospital in Blairsville, Georgia. She demonstrated leadership by serving as a student ambassador, helping and tutoring other Nursing students. Since graduating from Tri-County Community College, Carr has advanced in her healthcare career, becoming a Registered Nurse in the emergency room department at Angel Medical Center in Franklin.
  • Makayla Gaitan of Havelock: Outstanding Young Adult. Through the Carteret County NCWorks Career Center, Gaitan received supportive services that have taken her through Carteret Community College's Adult High School program and then into the college’s Human Services associate degree program. She excelled in both programs and graduated from CCC with her degree in May. Gaitan accomplished all that after overcoming health issues, losing her home to Hurricane Florence in 2018 and serving as a primary caregiver for a disabled parent. NCWorks also placed her in a Work Experience opportunity with the local Boys & Girls Club, which led to a summer job with that organization. Gaitan gained more experience by working on the community college campus, while also participating in the Student Government Association and serving as a student ambassador. With a career goal of becoming a therapist for children and families, she is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Lees-McRae College.
  • Teri Lewis of Wilmington: Wayne Daves Award for Outstanding Achievement in Workforce Development. Lewis is a career advisor at the NCWorks Career Center of New Hanover County. One of her passions is her additional role as the center’s Reentry Specialist, which involves helping justice-involved jobseekers. She receives many referrals from other agencies because of her reputation for helping jobseekers gain meaningful employment. Lewis also serves on the executive board for the New Hanover County Local Reentry Council. Thanks in large part to her leadership, her center enrolled 408 justice-involved clients during the 2020 calendar year - more than any other NCWorks Career Center in the state. She has also been a leader in adapting to virtual services during the pandemic and, as part of the local Business Services team, she assists with outreach and educates employers about the advantages of providing second chances to jobseekers with criminal records. Colleagues consider Lewis a model of excellent customer service and dedication.
  • Donna Caskey of Dallas: Bill Ragland Private Sector Award for Outstanding Achievement in Workforce Development. Caskey, the human resources manager for GSM Services, has served as a member of the Gaston Workforce Development Board since 2017. A champion of work-based learning, she has worked to strengthen GSM's partnership with the workforce board and other organizations to focus on the emerging workforce and upskilling current employees as technologies evolve. At GSM, she has led inclusive recruiting and hiring practices focused on formerly incarcerated individuals and other jobseekers with potential barriers to employment. She has helped develop GSM’s own registered apprenticeship program and used NCWorks programs like On-the-Job Training, Work Experience and Incumbent Worker Training. Caskey volunteers and participates on several community-based committees and non-profit organization boards. She is an active member of Gaston County's Professional Women's Association and Gaston HR. She volunteers each year to participate in the Gaston County Career Expo for high school students.   
  • Kitsbow Cycling Apparel of Old Fort: Outstanding Employer. Kitsbow became famous as a manufacturer of high-end cycling attire, but in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted that business, and employees’ jobs were in jeopardy. Kitsbow pivoted by retraining the 27 employees at the Old Fort facility to instead produce personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks and shields. Due to high demand for those products, the company was able to more than double the size of its workforce. At one point, Kitsbow was producing 30,000 reusable face masks and 60,000 face shields each week, many for use by healthcare workers and first responders across the country. Today, the company continues to produce PPE, while bringing back their original product lines of camping gear and cycling attire. Kitsbow has partnered with the McDowell County NCWorks Career Center to recruit employees and participated in the NCWorks On-the-Job Training (OJT) program through Foothills Workforce Development Board.
  • City of Charlotte Virtual Career Pathways Partnership: Outstanding Innovative Partnership. In the spring of 2020, it seemed that many high-school-age students’ summer internship opportunities through the longstanding City of Charlotte Mayor's Youth Employment Program (MYEP) would have to be cancelled. Instead, the City and local partners (including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Career & Technical Education Department, Radius Learning, and LinkedIn Learning) quickly and effectively transitioned nearly 300 traditional internship experiences into virtual programs. With support from major employers, 291 young people participated in these virtual, paid internships for five weeks that summer. Students learned about growing industries and received guidance from local educators, while working nearly 30,000 hours and earning more than $260,000 as a group. The partnership continued beyond its summer programming efforts to deliver a 50-hour winter internship opportunity for more than 330 under-resourced, under-represented youth from November-December of 2020. In the summer of 2021, a combination of virtual and traditional, in-person internships were offered.


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