Young adult education gets a boost

Gates grant goes to area institutions

Staff WriterJuly 13, 2011 

— A group of local colleges, government agencies and nonprofit organizations has won a $1.3 million grant to help local, low-income teens and young adults earn the educational edge needed to get skilled jobs.

The two-year grant is part of an initiative by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to double the number of young adults who earn a "postsecondary credential" - such as a degree or a professional license or certification for a trade - by 2025.

"This is important because for the jobs of the future, a high school diploma isn't enough," said Jose Picart, a special assistant to the provost at N.C. State University, who will run the collaboration. "A lot of the jobs in our region are in that category - high tech, the green industry and medical care - and those are the jobs that are going continue to feed our local and state economy."

The initiative will try to boost the number of local young adults getting those kinds of credentials by 750 in two years and by 4,000 in the next 10 years, he said.

Besides NCSU, the collaborators include Meredith College, Peace College, Shaw University, St. Augustine's College, Wake Technical Community College, the Wake County Public School System, the city of Raleigh, Wake County Human Services, United Way of the Greater Triangle and the Capital Area Workforce Development Board, along with other local partners.

It's part of a four-city initiative, with each group figuring out how to tackle its variation of the problem, said Richard Hart, a spokesman for MDC, a Chapel Hill-based nonprofit organization that focuses on education and economic opportunity.

MDC is leading the broader initiative, which includes similar groups in Charlotte and two cities in Texas.

Broad community involvement is crucial, he said.

United Way, for example, will help with things like arranging internships and job shadowing, Picart said.

This summer, students at two Wake County high schools are taking part in a pilot project to learn about educational options after graduation.

And the six colleges will run a fellows program to give low-income students mentoring, work-based learning opportunities such as internships, and help with resumes and preparing for job interviews.

There also will be a program called Raleigh College Centers in partnership with the city. The centers will give advice on completing a GED, applying to college, getting financial aid and finding on-the-job training. or 919-829-4526

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