An innovative new adult-learner program at Fayetteville Technical Community College has been awarded $2 million in American Rescue Plan funding by Cumberland County.
The FTCC program – HOPE, or Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity through Education – seeks to provide accelerated training in high-demand skills to county residents without a college degree, including those with some college, a high school diploma or less.
As part of the program, FTCC plans to partner with employers to provide HOPE students with work-based learning internships and on-the-job training (OJT) experiences. Part of the $2 million from the county’s American Rescue Plan funds will help provide cost-of-living stipends to participating students during the initial training and internship experiences. Students will then be eligible for employment with businesses participating in the OJT program.
The funding was announced Tuesday at a Skilled Trades and Technology Expo at FTCC that was cohosted by the College, Fayetteville Public Works Commission, NC Works and the Mid-Carolina Regional Council.
About 40 employers attended an information session about HOPE, then participated in a crowded job fair at FTCC’s Tony Rand Student Center.
“This funding is a critical boost for this important program,” said Dr. Mark Sorrells, FTCC’s Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Services. “HOPE aims to help people quickly learn valuable skills that can lead to good-paying jobs. That helps prepare individuals for in-demand jobs that pay well, it helps employers find talent and support continuous training, and it helps improve the economic conditions in the county.”
Cumberland County Commissioner Jimmy Keefe said the program “can help change the trajectory of individuals and families that are trapped in generational poverty.”
Glenn Adams, chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, agreed: “This money will change peoples’ lives.”
Other county officials at the presentation included Commissioners Charles Evans and Toni Stewart and County Manager Amy Cannon.
The ARP funds are part of the national economic recovery package created during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The HOPE program aims to create better-skilled workers across a number of industries allowing them to obtain better jobs and better pay. Sorrells said HOPE is part of an array of innovative responses from the College to address the skilled labor shortage while improving the overall local economic landscape.
“The objective of the HOPE initiative is to increase the economic and social mobility of both the people of Cumberland County and also to make Cumberland County a more vibrant and prosperous community for all residents,” Sorrells said.
HOPE participants will receive technical instruction and on-the-job training, taking advantage of an “earn-as-you-learn” model to get into the workforce through an accelerated path to employment. They’ll have the option to complete the training as a 30-week day program or as a 35-week night program.
FTCC initially plans to establish HOPE programs in wood-frame construction, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, property maintenance and automotive service technician. Plans call for other programs to be added later. Each of these career fields are in high demand with job openings across the region. Some HOPE courses will begin this fall. The course schedule is being established.
Missy Akin, Director of Workforce Partnerships for the HVAC company Brady Services, said the labor workforce shortage is apparent in their field.
“For every seven technicians we lose, we’re only getting four,” she said.
Brady was one of more than 40 employers stationed at Tuesday’s Expo, which drew a steady crowd of job seekers for two hours.
The HOPE initiative is expected to grow over time to include other industries as FTCC and its partners add more pathways to credentials in high-demand career fields.