Author: Jackie Torok Published: 8/3/2022 NC A&T Research and Economic Development
EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Aug. 3, 2022) – U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced a $23.7 million American Rescue Plan Good Jobs Challenge grant to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University on Wednesday to create STEPs4GROWTH, a clean energy workforce training program.
North Carolina A&T’s portion of the overall $500 million Good Jobs Challenge, which is funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, is the largest among the 32 worker-centered, industry-led workforce training partnerships across the country and is single-largest award the university has received for research.
“Through this important project, North Carolina A&T will play a leading role in preparing well-trained workers to fill the many skilled jobs in America’s rapidly growing clean energy sector,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “The prescient work of A&T engineering faculty and principal investigators on this grant, Balakrishna Gokaraju and Greg Monty, has culminated in a novel program for delivering education credentials through stackable certificates.
“Their training program will contribute significantly to preparing the highly skilled clean energy workforce of the future.”
STEPs4GROWTH will create quality, demand-driven training for the region’s growing clean energy sector. With a focus on equity, the program will use mobile training units in 16 economically distressed North Carolina counties to remove barriers to access and deliver training where workers are. STEPS4GROWTH will serve as a national training model that will create a diverse talent pipeline to support the economy.
“This is the first-ever Commerce Department initiative where we are totally focused on job training,” said Raimondo. “That’s what this is about – real jobs, family-sustaining jobs that everybody can get.”
Joining Raimondo on the A&T campus for the historic announcement were Assistant U.S. Commerce Secretary for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo, Congresswoman Alma Adams ‘68, Gov. Roy Cooper, N.C. Secretary of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders, N.C. Department of Revenue Secretary Ronald Penny, N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth Biser, state Sen. Gladys Robinson and Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughn.
Business leaders from Duke Energy, Siemens Energy, Piedmont Services Group, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association were also on hand.
“We are on the cutting edge of the clean energy economy,” said Cooper, noting North Carolina’s ranking by CNBC and Business Facilities magazine as the top state in the country to do business. “This transformative grant will invest in our state’s diverse workforce as we continue to create high-paying clean energy jobs and bolster North Carolina A&T’s reputation as a national leader in preparing students for the economy of the future.”
A part of the project, more than 40 employers – including Strata Clean Energy, Enviva, Siemens, Duke and Blue Ridge Power – have committed to hiring 3,000 STEPs4GROWTH trainees over four years, then 1,500 trainees every year afterward.
“I’m happy to pick up the baton here because, as y’all already know, our national champion Aggies know how to run a relay,” joked Adams, referring to A&T’s national championship 4×400 men’s relay team. “As the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus, I know the power of partnerships with our historically Black colleges and universities. Few institutions are so critical, so central to their communities and their alumni, so HBCUS are a perfect place to build lasting relationships to unlock opportunity.”
The 32 awardee projects were selected from a competitive pool of 509 applicants. By partnering with stakeholders such as labor unions, community colleges and industry, these projects will solve for local talent needs, increase the supply of trained workers and help workers secure jobs in 15 key industries that are essential to U.S. supply chains, global competitiveness, and regional development. Through a holistic, integrated partnership approach, these projects will provide tangible opportunities and security for American workers, focusing on serving and supporting a broad range of underserved communities and connecting workers with the training, skills, and support services needed to successfully secure a good job.
“The Good Jobs Challenge is bringing together diverse partners and local leaders to advance workforce training programs across the country,” said Castillo. “Led by North Carolina A&T, the nation’s largest historically Black college and university, this program is bringing together education and clean energy employers to create an effective, inclusive workforce training program.”
“We are on a mission to make sure that every American – regardless of where they live or the color of their skin, how old they are, whether they are in recovery, formerly incarcerated – has a chance to get a real job,” said Raimondo. “You guys are working together as a team. When we sit down to say, ‘Where do we want to invest the money?’ we keep coming back here [to North Carolina] because we trust your stewardship. So let’s make this great.”
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