In the summer of 2022, Wilson was selected as one of the 13 collaboratives in North Carolina to join this initiative to expand education and employment pathways for young adults. Led by Wilson Forward and the Wilson Chamber of Commerce, primary partners include the City of Wilson, Wilson County Schools, and Wilson Community College, who will work beside 12 other selected community collaboratives (representing 37 NC counties). This cohort will serve as statewide leaders in implementing positive strategies to significantly expand and deepen education and employment pathways for Opportunity Youth and pilot practices that benefit communities across the state.
Over the next two years, the Wilson team (named the Wilson Workforce Alliance), will connect with many other partners to develop resources and implement evidence-based programs, career counseling, micro-credential training, technical assistance for companies to hire youths, and grant-writing assistance for funding opportunities.
These efforts represent a continued response to employment and education needs we have seen in Wilson and across North Carolina for the past few years, particularly out of the disruption in the U.S. labor market following the onset of COVID-19. Nationally, the overall unemployment rate for workers 16-24 jumped to 24.4 percent in spring 2020 versus 11.3 percent for workers 25 and older. The individuals with the lowest levels of education – below a high school diploma – fared the worst. Already, “Opportunity Youth,” the 16-24 year olds who are not in school or working, had a higher percentage of people living in poverty than non-Opportunity Youth in 2019.