“Train the East”: New Latino Workforce Initiative

Our region’s two community colleges, Lenoir Community College and Wayne Community College along with neighboring James Sprunt Community College have created a partnership to support Latino workforce development. The colleges were recently awarded $1 million from the Anonymous Trust in support of a new, two-year Latino Initiative called “Train the East.” Each community college will receive $250,000 to be used over the two years.

The “Train the East” initiative is part of a wider state collaboration, myFutureNC, a state project that aims to close the educational attainment gap and provide academic credentials for North Carolinians. The four community colleges will recruit, train, and support students from Latino communities in rural eastern North Carolina, building a skilled and credentialed workforce for Lenoir, Greene, Jones, Duplin, Sampson, and Wayne counties.

Funds will be used to provide a full-time outreach recruiter/success coach, as well as offer student scholarships to help with tuition, books, and other fees at each of the respective colleges.

“We are excited to be a part of the Train the East initiative, and we are so grateful to the Anonymous Trust for the confidence they have in our consortium,” says LCC President Dr. Rusty Hunt. “I also want to thank Cecilia Holden with myFutureNC for her leadership as we strive to produce two million workforce credentials by the year 2030. We are committed to providing the workforce that our business partners and employers in eastern North Carolina need.”

Hunt said the Latino population in the area served by our colleges is the fastest growing demographic group, and the success rates for our Latino students who enroll are at or above average. “LCC has been serving Latino students through our Centro Educativo Latino, which was established in 2011. This initiative will assist in expanding our workforce training opportunities,” he said.

“The Hispanic student population in NC Public Schools has increased 41 percent in the last 10 years, while the total population in public schools has decreased 4 percent.  Many of the parents of these Hispanic students, as well as other Hispanic adults in our local community, don’t have higher levels of education,” says Cecilia Holden, CEO of myFutureNC. “Based on current trends, 209,000 of the 290,000 Hispanic students enrolled in NC Public Schools will not go on to receive a postsecondary degree or industry-valued credential either.”

Holden said while the data show that Hispanic students are enrolling in college at lower rates, those who do enroll are completing at rates at or above the statewide average. “Therefore, it’s important to increase awareness of educational opportunities and remove barriers to entry for these students. The Train the East initiative aligns well with the State’s goal of two million by 2030, with a focus on increasing the number of Latino students who enroll in and complete postsecondary education programs. We are grateful to Anonymous Trust for supporting this partnership between Lenoir, James Sprunt, Sampson, and Wayne Community Colleges.”

This unique collaboration is a result of the Go Global Latino Pipeline Initiative where representatives from education, economic development, business, government, and others from the six counties as well as leadership from myFutureNC visited Mexico to open the lines of communication to help meet educational needs. 

“This travel experience was life-changing for the entire team,” said Margaret Turlington of the Anonymous Trust. “I have loved seeing the partnership between the four community colleges and the team spirit of helping each other.”

Craig Foucht, Director of Business and Project Management here at the NCGTP EDR, has been part of the initiative since it began and participated in the trip to Mexico. He stated,” This initiative is an example of the collaboration existing and new businesses can expect in our region. The team identified the Latino community is one of the fastest growing demographics and we found meaningful ways to connect them with training that leads to obtaining skills that our employers are seeking to meet their workforce needs.”