Grant Helps Students Prepare for New Careers
Tobacco Trust Money Funds N.C. Community Colleges' Project Skill-UP
WINTERVILLE—A grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has helped Pitt Community College students ‘skill-up’ for new careers.
Last year, the Tobacco Trust awarded the N.C. Community College System a $750,000-grant to establish Project Skill-UP. The workforce development initiative was created to help individuals affected by changes in the tobacco industry update job skills and learn new marketable skills reflective of fast-growing occupations and/or new industries within their communities.
Project Skill-UP features three core components: skills assessment, occupational skills training and tuition assistance.
PCC received $20,000 from the Tobacco Trust grant. That money was used to fund tuition for 85 continuing education students, who pursued a wide range of training options – from barber college to a variety of health care programs, including nursing assistant, pharmacy tech, EKG monitoring tech and paramedic academy.
Dr. David Lusk, PCC’s Continuing Education dean, said students receiving Project Skill-UP funding had to complete an application and meet several requirements, including unemployment or underemployment and demonstration of being adversely affected by tobacco industry changes. He added that each student was also required to take Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) testing in order to determine their workplace skills.
Student Gary Greenway was awarded Project Skill-UP funding for a Nursing Assistant I course he completed this spring. The 36-year-old Fayetteville native has also completed PCC’s Pharmacy Tech I, Pharmacy Tech II and Medication Aide courses and is currently enrolled in Nursing Assistant II. He was accepted into the college’s Respiratory Therapy curriculum this week.
Greenway said Project Skill-UP funding “alleviated so much stress” and enabled him to concentrate on his studies. He also enjoyed the opportunity to take the CRC test as a means of gauging his “basic occupational strengths and weaknesses.”
“I am one of those chasing the light at the end of the tunnel in hopes that I may someday work a job I enjoy with consistency, reliable pay, affordable health benefits for myself and my son, and a retirement …,” Greenway said.
Including PCC, Project Skill-UP was implemented at 24 North Carolina community colleges to serve nearly 3,000 participants. A 46-county area was served through the program.
The Tobacco Trust Fund Commission that funded the project was created to implement a state statute established to assist tobacco farmers, tobacco quota holders, people engaged in tobacco-related business, individuals displaced from tobacco-related employment, and tobacco-product component programs by funding programs that support, foster and facilitate a strong agricultural economy in North Carolina.