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Investing in community colleges

Education has been a core focus of the SECU Foundation since its creation in 2004. One of our very first initiatives was a collaboration with the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) – the SECU “People Helping People®” Community College Scholarship program. An annual commitment of $580,000 and a cumulative investment of over $8 million to date, this program awards two $5,000 scholarships to each of the 58 community colleges in the North Carolina Community College System to help students obtain a two-year degree.

Our focus has expanded to include continuing education and workforce development, areas with scarce amounts of funding. Our discussions began with NCCCS, as a collaborative partner for the development of a new scholarship program within the workforce development arena. In 2018, the SECU Foundation Board of Directors approved to pilot the “SECU Bridge to Career Program.”

Set to start in the Fall, this new program strives to remove financial roadblocks for students seeking to obtain state-regulated or industry-recognized credentials through their local Community College’s Workforce Continuing Education Division. Administered through each Community College, the SECU Bridge to Career Program is intended to address barriers that keep the unemployed and underemployed from finding career opportunities. The goal is to assist them with securing careers with sustainable wages in their local communities.

The SECU Bridge to Career Program is two-tiered, consisting of a Bridge to Career Cohort Pilot and Workforce Development Scholarships. Twenty Community Colleges have been invited to participate in the Cohort Pilot for the 2018-2019 school year, which provides up to thirty $500 scholarships as well as funding for the administration of the cohort program. A navigator will be used to guide a cohort of students in identified programs of study through the entirety of the educational process, from class registration to job seeking, and will connect these students with soft skills training and interview preparation to alleviate barriers to job procurement.

The remaining 38 Community Colleges are invited to receive up to six $500 Workforce Development Scholarships for individuals either currently enrolled or enrolling in a short-term training program of at least 96 hours that leads to state-regulated or industry-recognized credentials. Students interested in applying must contact their local Community College for specific instructions on submitting a scholarship application.

“Funding for continuing education and workforce development is greatly needed. The SECU Bridge to Career Pilot Program builds on SECU Foundation efforts to provide educational opportunities for North Carolinians,” said Mike Lord, SECU President and CEO. “Thanks to the generosity of the members of State Employees’ Credit Union who fund the Foundation, these educational initiatives are improving the lives of our state’s citizens.”

While the rollout for this new program is in the beginning stages, we have already received positive feedback and encouragement from both the participating Community Colleges and local employers in the pilot areas. We look forward to seeing the impact this program will make in communities across the state, and we will continue to engage the Community Colleges to help determine the effectiveness of the program and ways to enhance it over time.

Jama Campbell

Jama Campbell is the Executive Director of the SECU Foundation.