Raleigh, N.C. - Ahead of the release of his short session budget, Governor Roy Cooper today shared recommendations to create the NC Job Ready Fund to train and grow North Carolina’s workforce to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. In February, Gov. Cooper laid out his key principles for improving North Carolina’s workforce: providing education and skills training, partnering with employers to prepare workers for evolving industries, and tapping into local innovation.

“Business leaders and CEOs across the state and the globe say that their number one need for creating new jobs is a well-trained workforce,” said Gov. Cooper. “The programs in the NC Job Ready Fund will help North Carolinians get the training and education they need to compete for jobs available today as well as those that we will recruit to North Carolina. These good-paying, skilled jobs will put more money in the pockets of North Carolina families.”

The NC Job Ready Fund includes three main components to invest in North Carolina’s workers and would total $60 million. The fund would include the following:

NC GROW – ($30 million)
Providing Financial Assistance for Job Training in High-Demand Fields

Many good-paying jobs of today and tomorrow require skilled workers with specialized training. Gov. Cooper’s budget establishes a $30 million financial aid program to provide free training for high-demand fields. NC GROW (Getting Ready for Opportunities in the Workforce), will help cover tuition and selected fees for students pursuing training in high-demand fields. The Community College System and Department of Commerce will identify industries with high demand for skilled workers, including construction, health sciences, information technology and manufacturing.

Finish Line Grants – ($20 million)
Helping Students Complete Higher Education Degrees

North Carolina’s community colleges and four-year colleges and universities are opening doors for students all across the state. But too often, financial emergencies like unexpected healthcare costs, childcare expenses, or car breakdowns prevent students who are on the cusp of graduating from reaching that milestone. The $20 million Finish Line Grants Program will help students complete their degrees when facing unforeseen financial challenges. Funds can be used for course materials, housing, medical needs, dependent care, or other financial emergencies that students face through no fault of their own.

Community college students who are within 15 credit hours of completing a degree will be eligible to receive up to $1,000 per semester. $5 million will be set aside to help at least 5,000 community college students complete their training.

Students at UNC System institutions and independent colleges and universities who are within 30 credit hours of graduating and have maintained a minimum GPA will be eligible for grants of up to $1,000 per semester. $15 million will be available ($10 million for UNC institutions and $5 million for independent colleges) to help at least 15,000 students complete their undergraduate degrees.

Employer Training Fund – ($10 million)
Supporting Employer Innovation and Workplace Training

Employers themselves know the most about the skills industries require. The budget provides $10 million for a competitive grant program to assist employers in addressing workforce training needs and employee skill gaps. Funds will support work-based learning initiatives like flexible, paid internship and employment opportunities for students, apprenticeship programs, and "up-skill/back-fill" projects to help current employees develop the skills needed to fill new roles and back-fill job openings with new hires. The Department of Commerce will collaborate with Workforce Development Boards, the NC Community College System, employers, and other industry partners to design and implement the grant program.

For a fact sheet on Gov. Cooper's recommendations, click HERE.

“The Governor and his staff have developed a budget approach that’s perfectly aligned with the needs of North Carolinians who want well-paying jobs and our state’s employers who want well-qualified workers. The investments are smart and targeted in areas where there are tens of thousands of available jobs now and in the near future. Helping North Carolinians finish their college degrees or obtain crucial work credentials will improve their earnings and lift the state’s economy in the years ahead,” said Kevin Trapani, Chair of the NCWorks Commission and Co-Founder & CEO of The Redwoods Group.

“On behalf of North Carolina’s 36 private colleges and universities and our 90,000 students, NCICU thanks Governor Cooper for recognizing and addressing emergencies that can require students to drop out of college even when they are so close to graduation. This program can definitely help these students cross the ‘Finish Line,’” said Dr. A Hope Williams, President of NCICU, North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities.

“NC Job Ready aligns with the NC Community College System’s strategic focus on ensuring the educational pipeline prepares a workforce that meets the current and future needs of employers,” said NC Community College System President Peter Hans.

“The North Carolina Association of Workforce Development Boards (NCAWDB) is pleased to support the Governor’s NC Job Ready Workforce budget and agenda for 2018/2019. Whether providing funds to help employers meet their skill needs or resources that assist students to complete their education and gain new marketable skills, Governor Cooper’s NC Job Ready advances the NCAWDB’s goal of capacity building enabling businesses to prosper economically by providing a highly qualified and motivated workforce. The 23 Workforce Development Boards across the state stand ready to assist with the NC Job Ready initiative which supports our vision of cultivating the most competitive best in class workforce in the nation,” said Jeff Frederick, President of NCAWDB and Pat Sturdivant, President of the Workforce Development Board Directors Council.

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