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Charlotte Area

Non-Profit Takes Training Opportunities To Neighborhoods

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Gwendolyn Glenn
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Charlotte Works President and CEO Patrick Graham

Charlotte Works is taking a different approach in its efforts to improve economic mobility for the city’s poor by focusing on neighborhoods. The Mecklenburg County workforce development board plans to send teams to communities with high unemployment to identify residents who could benefit from their training scholarships and other assistance. 

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Dan Roselli, Charlotte Works Board of Directors Chair

Charlotte Works plans to hire staff to go into distressed neighborhoods and let residents know about 300 training scholarships they are offering unemployed and underemployed people. The $4.2 million program will help pay for short- and long-term training scholarships for jobs in high-demand industries such as finance, technology and manufacturing. Charlotte Works board chair Dan Roselli expects this type of training will lead to careers with opportunities for advancement.

“As you talk about issues that Charlotte is facing on economic and social mobility, that’s solved by careers, not paychecks,” Roselli said.

Charlotte Works President Patrick Graham says they will first determine the needs of individual communities and then go to places such as churches and fraternity houses to find applicants.

“There are many ways to try to get at that population but we have to go through individuals and institutions that they trust because if we are to be honest with ourselves, at times we have let them down,” Graham said.

Three years ago a Harvard University, UC Berkeley report found that children in poverty in Charlotte have little chance of escaping it. Graham says Charlotte Works hopes to improve those odds. He says they are also working with employers. Those conversations include convincing them to hire people trained through the scholarships, even if they don’t have a four-year degree and emphasizing the importance of a racially and economically diverse workforce.

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Credit Gwendolyn Glenn

Graham also called on city officials do more to attract mid-level income jobs.

“Many of those jobs that serve as stepping stones for people to move up in mobility are now disappearing. If we are truly going to create mobility how do we do that if we’re missing a key step in occupational development?,” Graham said.

Last year Charlotte Works placed more than 7,000 people in jobs. Graham says they hope the new effort will increase that by a thousand this year.