Governor Cooper Announces Southeastern Education and Economic Development Launch

North Carolina Global TransPark Economic Development Region President Mark Pope and WCDA Wayne County Existing Industry Director Julie Graham attended this event, where much discussion was around the regional impacts of the (SEED) initiative and how Wayne, Lenoir, Jones, and Greene counties will benefit from this first phase of the program.

Wayne Community College was honored to welcome Governor Roy Cooper to campus to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week. While there, the Governor announced the launch of the Southeastern Education and Economic Development (SEED) initiative, a partnership between the North Carolina Business Committee for Education and Smithfield Foods.

SEED is a comprehensive youth apprenticeship program providing career pathways and college education for high school students in southeastern North Carolina counties. 

During the announcement, Smithfield Foods presented the NCBCE with a $1 million donation to help fund this initiative!

“Today’s high school students are tomorrow’s workforce. Youth apprenticeship programs like the SEED initiative will provide students with an opportunity to learn valuable skills while getting on-the-job training.” -Gov. Cooper 

Youth apprenticeship programs allow students to jump-start their careers while still in high school. Students accepted into the SEED program will begin their pre-apprenticeship program as 11th or 12th graders, taking community college classes, participating in paid work-based learning, and having access to mentors in the company sponsoring their work-based learning experience.

In North Carolina, students who participate in these programs in high school can take advantage of the apprenticeship waiver and receive tuition-free courses for their aligned degrees from the community college to continue their education. The waiver, outlined in the NC General Statute, covers fees for curriculum-related instruction for apprentices after high school graduation, providing incentives for both the employer and the apprentices.

During SEED’s first year, the career pathway will be industrial technology. Through the apprenticeship program, students will take up to 15 hours of transferable community college classes at Lenoir or Wayne Community Colleges and participate in paid work-based learning training on industrial maintenance. Upon graduation, students can continue into a registered apprenticeship program, working towards an Associate degree in Industrial Technology.

Students in the SEED apprenticeship program will earn an Industrial Systems Technology Certificate, a Career Readiness Certificate, apprenticeship hours that will transfer to an adult apprenticeship program, and preferred employment opportunities at Smithfield Foods (pending meeting full-time employment requirements). The program will expand in subsequent years to include pathways in farm leadership and business operations.

“Smithfield is strongly committed to making sure students have educational opportunities that will fuel their careers in the years ahead,” said Steve Evans, vice president of community development for Smithfield. “Our goal is to develop the next generation of leaders through supporting education in our communities, and the SEED program is a great way to help these students jump-start their early career development.”

The program will begin in Wayne, Lenoir, Jones, and Greene counties. Next school year, it will expand to Duplin, Sampson, and Wilson counties and, the following year, to Bladen and Columbus counties. The grant will support an apprenticeship hub at each pilot community college. The SEED program plans to expand to include other employers and philanthropic partners interested in supporting education and providing career opportunities in North Carolina.

Likewise, Lenoir Community College kicked off National Apprenticeship Week at the Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Center on Monday, Nov. 13, during the AAMC Speaker Spotlight on Apprenticeship event. Students learned about the benefits of the apprenticeship program from Dawn Kantz, Associate Dean of AAMC and Workforce Development at LCC. Students also heard different apprenticeship viewpoints from Amy Jones of Lenoir County Schools on their pre-apprenticeship program with Crown Equipment; Gavin Pittman, an apprentice at Crown Equipment and an LCC student. Also, Paul Boggs of Winterville Metal informed the group about apprenticeship opportunities with his company, and finally, Stephen Edwards of FRC East introduced everyone to the Federal Pathways Internship at Cherry Point MCAS.

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