Raleigh, N.C. — State lawmakers are working on a bill that would create public-private partnerships to fund programs to help more North Carolina students prepare for college and careers.
The Education and Workforce Innovation Act is expected to be heard in the state House Education Committee next week. The legislation – sponsored by four representatives whose districts include Carrabus, Union, Edgecombe, Martin and Johnston counties – would build programs that integrate workforce training and classroom instruction so students graduate with the competitive edge needed in a global economy.
The Early College Academy at Wilson Community College is an example of the kind of program proponents say the act will fund. Up to 250 Wilson County students are in Early College, where they earn their high school diploma and associate’s degree at the same time.
“I’ll be leaving with a two-year degree, an associate’s degree, and also my high school diploma,” student Alfonso Estupinan said.
Superintendent Sean Bulson said the unique teacher training and philosophy from the Early College Academy can be applied elsewhere.
“It’s really future-looking, where instruction is totally different from what they’ve seen at other schools,” he said.
The bill has the blessing of Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, who said he also expects the business community to buy in. The legislation calls for any state money put into the grants to be matched by a combination of private and local funds.
Jim Whitehurst, chief executive officer of Red Hat, a technology company that employs 1,200 North Carolinians, said he’s willing to invest in programs that offer a return.
“We know it’s a concept that’s successful and is driving innovation, which is why the process is so exciting to me,” he said.
Whitehurst said the business world has used the same concept for years. It’s the basis behind Silicon Valley and venture capitalism.
“(We) would love to hire more people in North Carolina. It’s a great place for us to hire people. There’s a talent gap. Things that can help the talent gap add value.”