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New program aims to connect 'opportunity youth' with future employment

Carolina Across 100
The 37 counties are divided into 13 teams that will identify youth who could benefit from the program.

Thirty-seven North Carolina counties will participate in a pilot program to train young people for careers in information technology and other fields. The initiative is focused on people aged 16 to 24 who struggled with staying in school or college during the pandemic.

Anita Brown-Graham calls these young people "opportunity youth." She's director of the ncIMPACT initiative at UNC- Chapel Hill's School of Government, which is leading the project.

"The quick transition to remote learning didn't work for some of them for all sorts of reasons, or they had other priorities that they needed to focus on,” she said. "So many of them are really struggling to figure out how to re-engage."

The program, called Our State Our Work, is in its early stages. The 37 counties are divided into 13 teams that will identify youth who could benefit. UNC will partner with local school systems, community colleges, workforce agencies, and nonprofits.

Through partnerships with Google and Microsoft, participants will learn skills to prepare them for jobs in IT fields, but Brown-Graham said she’s open to hearing from youth about other potential pathways.

"The reality is, we've got to meet these young people where they are,” she said. "And I suspect as this program continues to take shape, we'll hear from them about aspirations that we have not anticipated."

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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