Longleaf Commitment Grants, Community College Efforts Create Career Pipeline for Students
North Carolina community colleges are at the forefront of creating career pathways for students. These pathways include certifications targeting specific industries, as well as AA degrees that can create more opportunities for them as the number of jobs across the state requiring a postsecondary degree or quality certification grows.
According to myFutureNC, a statewide nonprofit tasked with closing the state’s educational attainment gap, by 2030, 67% of jobs in North Carolina will require a hiqh-quality credential or post-secondary degree.
To ensure the state’s high school graduates are prepared for this new reality, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper recently announced the extension of the Longleaf Commitment community college grant program.
Launched in 2021, the program ensures North Carolina high school graduates from low- and middle-income families receive at least $2,800 in federal and state grants to cover tuition and most fees at any of the state’s 58 community colleges. The state budget signed into law in November 2021 expanded the program to include high school graduates in the class of 2022.
At a roundtable held earlier this month at Brunswick Community College, Cooper pointed out the importance of education to the state’s economic development efforts.
“Our strong, well-educated graduates are our top asset for economic development,” he said. “It’s great to see these Longleaf Commitment community grants help students continue their education debt-free, so they can take on the jobs of today and tomorrow.”
Number of jobs in biomanufacturing continues to grow
North Carolina’s community colleges have become invaluable partners to industry leaders across the state. Biomanufacturing is one growing area that has been working closely with community colleges to train and hire graduates.
Community colleges offer degrees ranging from an AAS degree in bioprocess technology at Central Carolina Community College to a degree in biomedical technology equipment at Durham Tech.
One popular program, the BioWork certificate program, is offered at 10 of the state’s community colleges and paves the way for high school graduates to enter the biomanufacturing field. The 12-week, non-credit course can lead to entry level positions such as a process technician.
For Mackenzie Dixon, BioWork paved the path to her job at Novo Nordisk.
“The medical field has always been of interest to me,” said Dixon in a Bio Jobs Hub profile about her last year. “I wanted to find a career path that I loved. My sister works in the pharmaceutical industry, and she loves it.”
Dixon took her sister’s advice and is now a process technician. “I really enjoy working at Novo Nordisk,” said Dixon. “I love my career choice, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.”
Connecting students to jobs
In addition to providing students with certificates and degrees that will jumpstart their careers in biotechnology, community colleges also play a hands-on role in connecting students to jobs across the state.
One example is the NC BioNetwork’s upcoming virtual career fair this Thursday, April 21. For the event, BioNetwork is teaming up with biopharmaceutical companies including Biogen, Grifols, Merck, Seqirus and Thermo Fisher Scientific and others. The event will be held from 3 until 6 p.m. While the event targets BioWork graduates and life sciences and BioNetwork students, anyone can attend.
Learn more about the NC BioNetwork virtual career fair.