Careers-focused FTCC program gives students hope

When Mark Sorrells, who will become the fifth president of Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) next year, was still new to school, he attended an MLK Day breakfast he didn’t know would stay that long. in his mind.

That morning in 2018, a colleague introduced Sorrells, senior vice president of academic and student services, to the Cumberland County prosecutor and sheriff.

“We need your help,” Sorrells recalled telling them. “We have a debarment initiative going on, but these people who come out with criminal backgrounds can’t find jobs… We really need help training them for jobs in high-needs areas. .”

“So we went to work,” Sorrells told EdNC. He secured a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation, his former employer, and spoke with local employers to assess their needs.

Over the next four years, seven cohorts of a total of 42 students have completed Cumberland GROW, an 11-week course for people who have been incarcerated for non-violent crimes, are homeless or live in shelters, or who have difficulty finding a job due to low education. Students receive certifications and training in trades such as electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and carpentry — skills Sorrell heard were needed in the construction trades and industries.

Sorrells will officially succeed Larry Keen, president of the FTCC since 2007, in January 2023, the school announced Monday.

Mark Sorrells, FTCC Senior Vice President of Academic and Student Services, talks about opportunities with Cumberland GROW students.

Re-engage, give hope

About 70% of students who enrolled in the program completed it, 62% subsequently found employment, and 14% enrolled in a college degree or certification program to further their education.

In a recent course, seven of the 10 students enrolled were experiencing homelessness. Four of these students have chosen to continue their studies, one is now working full-time and two others are participating in a separate program at the college.

And course leaders are beginning an on-site skills training program this month with local shelters Manna Church and Operation Inasmuch.

“It shows the resilience of this population that so often goes unpromoted or unspoken,” said Marvin Price, director of strategic community initiatives at the college’s Career and Education Success Center. Sorrells said Price’s leadership was integral to the program’s success. So many students.

“The acronym HOPE defines these individuals, so that’s what we provide — hope,” Price said. “It’s a way out of poverty.

Partnerships to address labor shortages

HOPE Re-connect — short for Hope, Opportunity, and Prosperity through Education — is the college’s broader effort to help adult learners who don’t have a college degree find training and employment. The program, partly supported by $2 million in US bailout funds, provides stipends to students who earn credits while participating in work-based learning programs. Cumberland GROW students also have access to these paid internships.

A recent Economic Impact Study found that one in 27 jobs in Cumberland County is supported by FTCC activities and students. In 2019-20, college alumni added $367.7 million in incremental revenue to the county, the equivalent of 5,661 jobs.

HOPE is just one example of the college’s partnerships with employers to meet local needs.

It has partnered with Cape Fear Valley Health System to meet specific workforce needs over the past two years, including expanding its respiratory technician program since the pandemic. The college is launching a pre-apprenticeship program in January for high school students earning FTCC credits, which will lead to apprenticeships at Blue Ridge Power, a local solar construction company. And it has partnered with several cybersecurity employers, including Booz Allen, to ensure students meet industry needs.

“When I came here, it opened up a different world for me,” said Tychinna Corpening, a graduate of the FTCC’s cybersecurity program. After graduation, Corpening did not get the job she wanted. So she came to work in a data labeling lab on the FTCC campus. Within a week, an instructor informed Corpening of a scholarship opportunity to earn his bachelor’s degree through the Department of Defense – with guaranteed employment afterwards.

She was one of 111 selected from more than 1,000 applicants across the country and earned her bachelor’s degree in governance, risk management and compliance from Montreat College.

“I wanted to do everything myself…because I used to do things alone, but I found out, no, not here,” Corpening said. “It’s a family.”

“Now I know where I’m going”

This week, 12 more students will graduate from Cumberland GROW. One is starting a paid internship at the City of Fayetteville, three have enrolled in curriculum courses and three have enrolled in the college welding program.

Sorrells said employers often attend the graduation ceremony. “A few (students) left after graduating with jobs,” he said.

Bendu Jegede enrolled in civil engineering after the course opened her eyes to options she had never considered, she said.

“It gave me insight into what I really wanted to do,” Jegede said. Sorrells let him know that the college had an articulation agreement for the transfer of civil engineering students with North Carolina A&T University.

For now, Jegede wants to find a job in construction while continuing her studies.

“Now I know where I’m going because I have a goal – I have a long-term goal of getting a degree, and I have a short-term goal of getting certified from here and working. So I feel fulfilled.”

Andrea Williamson will also be graduating this week and hopes to start a paid internship with Fay Block, a local masonry supply company. She said the community she found through her classmates and program faculty was a big part of the success of the course.

“I’ve met a lot of great people here,” Williamson said. “We are definitely like family. Especially going through tough times in life, we have all been there for each other, staff and students, we are able to support each other until the end of the 11 weeks.

Student Shaquan McSwain echoed that the benefits of the program extend beyond skills and certifications.

“It’s a lot more than that,” McSwain said. “…It kind of helped me solve problems a bit, it helped me to be able to interact, to network better, to understand not only myself, but also those around me. It allowed me to put myself in other people’s shoes and see things through their eyes and to be more attentive to other people’s feelings and their outlook on life. And I think that’s really important, especially to get into the job market.

Sorrels replied

“Pay it forward,” he said. “It’s the little things in life that will make a difference in the journey of others. It’s that little pat on the back; it’s that little word of encouragement. It’s that little boost when people are having a bad day that can really make a difference.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.

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