Workforce Development

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After an analysis of workforce-related information, Atlas discovered there is a significant drop in the number of people who choose to pursue further education upon graduating high school. Over the past few decades, a higher percentage of Sparta’s population has received a high school diploma (29%), but only about 22% pursue some sort of schooling after that, and less actually complete an Associates (9.5%) or Bachelors degree (10.4%). Without additional education or training, this leaves some of Sparta’s population with relatively few options for high-paying jobs. Input from the community also highlighted a significant lack of local tradespeople such as contractors, plumbers, electricians, and pipefitters.


Develop a Construction Bootcamp in Sparta

This Construction Bootcamp is designed as its own program but intended to be paired with the Blighted Home Renovation Strategy. 

The establishment of this program is outlined in three phases below.

Phase I: Forming Collaborative Partnerships

To build out a workforce development program, a collection of strategic partnerships is necessary to be successful. Although one entity might be the leader of the initiative, it will take a network of partners to establish and sustain a program that truly works to serve the community. 

STEP 1: Identify an entity that will serve as the initiative leader

During the Community Visioning phase, Wilkes Community College (WCC), the Alleghany campus, was identified as a potential leader to take on this initiative. Atlas agrees with this recommendation due to WCC’s existing Architecture and Construction programs and the ability to build on those skill sets and training. An existing employee of the college (or plans to hire someone) should be identified to lead and support the goals and objectives of the bootcamp. 

STEP 2: Identify existing assets that can support program

Once a leader has been identified, they will need to further assess existing assets in the community, region, and state that can assist in the development and launch of this program. 

Additional partnerships could include these individuals that own rental properties and do not necessarily have the funds to fix them up. This could provide an opportunity for participants to gain additional real-world experience while improving the existing housing stock in Sparta. 

Phase II: Building Out a Curriculum

By reviewing models and frameworks utilized by established programs around the country, Sparta can begin to map out a curriculum that fits their needs, goals, and objectives best. Atlas spoke with a few construction programs and identified steps Sparta can take developing this program. 

STEP 1: Create a housing inventory

First, the foundations and logistics of the program must be built out. Many programs Atlas spoke with recommended utilizing the NABTU MC3 Curriculum or the PACT Program through the Home Builders Institute. These curriculums provide pre-apprenticeship training that prepare participants to enter into building-related trades.  

During the Community Visioning phase, it was made aware to Atlas that Sparta had implemented a similar program in the past that focused on high school students. The program eventually ended due to the minimal time students were able to spend off-site and gaining hands-on experience. This is why Atlas recommends that the classroom/online portion of the training be conducted in the springtime so participants can begin hands-on training during the summer months. This would give more flexibility to high school and college students to participate in the program. 

STEP 2: Identify potential priority populations

Once there is a foundation, Sparta can think about how to expand the program. This career path is, typically, dominated by males, so how could Sparta focus on recruiting women? Or minority populations? 

How could this program attract more individuals from those populations? Remember to think about additional services that might need to be in place in order for these individuals to participate in the program e.g. daycare, transportation, etc. 

Here are some examples of construction programs throughout the U.S. that focus on target populations/projects: 

STEP 3: Coordinate with land bank to secure hands-on training site

Because this program will work collaboratively with the newly established land bank, Sparta will want to ensure that the land bank has secured (or plans to secure) a site that will be used to provide hands-on training.

STEP 4: Develop apprenticeship program within the bootcamp model

In order to ensure that progress is being made on the revitalized homes throughout the year, Atlas recommends simultaneously developing an apprenticeship program within this model in order to hire program participants that can continue restoration work. Fortunately, North Carolina is a strong workforce development state and values programming that seeks to prepare individuals for future employment in well-paying industries. NCWorks and ApprenticeshipNC are great resources that can be tapped into for developing this program and establishing an apprenticeship.

Phase III: Program Launch

After a curriculum and apprenticeship program have been established, it’s time to launch the program and begin recruiting participants. 

STEP 1: Hold public meetings to announce program and raise awareness

Sparta should announce the program to the community and raise awareness of the new opportunity. Sparta should hold general community meetings as well as targeted population meetings (focused on students, women, etc.). By educating people about the program, it should not only help with recruiting participants but also generate additional public support. 

STEP 2: Develop paper and digital marketing materials to promote program throughout the NW North Carolina region

Create flyers to increase awareness and recruitment. They can be posted around town in local businesses, schools, and community gathering spaces. Paper and digital copies should be made so information can be shared on social media.

Although this program seeks to strengthen Sparta’s local population, marketing material should also be developed to be distributed throughout the county and NW North Carolina region.

STEP 3: Begin Construction Bootcamp training

Enroll the first Construction Bootcamp cohort by the end of March/early April 2023, so they can complete the initial classroom/online training needed to begin hands-on instruction in late May/early June 2023.

See Chapter 10 of the Land Banks and Land Banking report for more information on administrative policies for dispositions.

Resource Roadmap

Because WCC has been identified as the entity that will headline this initiative, it is expected that they will contribute some funds to support the program. The amount should be discussed during Phase I as well as potential funding that established partnerships could provide. However, if WCC (and partnering entities) cannot provide enough funds to initiate or sustain the program, other funding will need to be secured.

Local/Regional Contractors

Atlas recommends partnering with local and regional contractors to see what type of support they may be able to contribute. If this program is preparing future apprentices/workers for them to hire, they may be interested in committing a certain level of financial support or possibly loaning tools and materials that can be used for training program participants. 

Additional Funding

The North Carolina Department of Commerce offers a Program Enhancement Grant, which can be used to support or sponsor innovative approaches to workforce development. This would require WCC to work with a Workforce Development board Business Services Representative to discuss further details about the grant opportunity.

The Department of Commerce offers the One North Carolina Fund, which is a discretionary cash-grant program that is meant to support competitive job-creation projects. There is a tier system based on demographic information and Alleghany County is ranked in Tier 2, which would require a local match of $1 for every $2 provided by the One NC Fund.

The HOME Investment Partnerships Program provides grant funding to communities working to create affordable housing for low-income households. These funds could be used to build, buy, and/or renovate affordable housing for rent or homeownership. This program provides flexibility on activities and implementation in order to tailor the impact to meet the community’s needs.

The Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) Initiative provides funds to Appalachian communities that are working to recover from economic hardship, including the impacts of the opioid epidemic. This program supports workforce development activities that prepare dislocated workers, new entrants to the workforce, and incumbent workers for good jobs in high-demand occupations.

Should Sparta determine that individuals who struggle with substance abuse be a priority population for the program, they could apply for funding through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)’s INSPIRE Initiative. This initiative provides funds that support recovery-focused training, one of the pillars within ARC’s Recovery Ecosystem Model.

Because WCC will be the leader of this initiative, they can apply for funding offered by the Duke Energy/Piedmont Community College Grant Program through The Foundation for the Carolinas. This program specifically supports developing a skill pipeline for existing and potential industry through apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs for adults within the community college’s service area.

The Construction Bootcamp meets the requirements as a priority funding area for Golden Leaf Foundation’s Open Grants Program. The bootcamp is seeking to help close skills gaps and increase the pool of qualified individuals, as well as create new jobs within Sparta.