KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced today that Rowan-Cabarrus Community College has been awarded a $400,000 grant by the NC Works Local Innovation Fund to provide assistance and job training for individuals with a criminal record who want to return to the workforce.

The grant will fund the College’s new “RE-Build Your Future” program, which will offer training for in-demand jobs in the construction and trucking industries.

Governor Cooper at the podium“As I go out and recruit companies, not only across the country but across the globe, the number one question is, ‘Do you have the workforce to perform these jobs that I would bring to your state?’ The state that gets it – the state that understands that education is the key to the jobs of today and tomorrow — is the state that is going to be the winner. I am planning for that state to be North Carolina,” Cooper said.

The NCWorks Local Innovation Fund, part of Governor Cooper’s NC Job Ready Initiative, supports efforts across the state to address workforce challenges for underserved populations, increase educational opportunities, and develop talent pools for in-demand occupations. After a competitive application process, Rowan-Cabarrus was awarded a two-year implementation grant to execute the RE-Build Your Future program.

“We see a large number of individuals who face barriers to employment because of their criminal background but are willing and eager to find good jobs. At the same time, employers in some industries locally are in dire need of trained workers but may have processes in place that limit them from hiring former offenders,” said Rowan-Cabarrus Community College president, Dr. Carol S. Spalding. “The innovative RE-Build Your Future program will link skilled, eligible workers with engaged employers, helping to close the skills gap and decreasing the likelihood that former offenders will be reincarcerated.”

Rowan-Cabarrus recognizes that former offenders represent a large pool of untapped talent that is often overlooked by both educational institutions and employers. Within Rowan and Cabarrus counties, there are over 3,400 former offenders currently under supervised probation, and many more who have criminal records. Studies show that former offenders who find work are three times less likely to return to prison.

“Well over 90 percent of people, who happen to be incarcerated in our North Carolina prisons, are going to be back out in society. Do we want them to be productive members of society, or do we want them to go right back into doing what got them there to start with?” Cooper asked. “I think we know what our moral obligation is and what our economic obligation is. North Carolina is better and safer when people who have paid their debt to society can find a path to success.”

Governor Cooper shaking hands with Rowan-Cabarrus staffThe RE-Build Your Future program will offer two sequences of training, one leading to certification for work in construction occupations and another preparing students to obtain their Class B Commercial Driver’s License, which is often used in the construction field. Work-based learning opportunities to get on-the-job training also will be available during the training period. To ensure success, eligible students also may receive scholarship and support services to provide assistance with challenges such as transportation and housing.

“This project will lead to transformational change within our communities by helping former offenders find employment and improving employers’ connection to a skilled labor pool,” said Craig Lamb, vice president of corporate and continuing education at Rowan-Cabarrus. “When people with criminal backgrounds can secure employment and provide for their families, we are able to improve their lives and our communities at large.”

Rowan-Cabarrus will execute the program with key partners, including the Centralina Workforce Development Board, which is financial administrator of the grant, and local NCWorks Career Centers, law enforcement agencies, community crisis assistance agencies, and employers. The College will hire two professional recruiters to connect with potential students by providing application guidance and leading workshops, information sessions and employer engagement activities.

The two-year program is designed to serve 200 individuals in Rowan and Cabarrus counties.

Interested individuals should visit their local NC Works Career Center, or work with the College’s R3 Services team (r3@rccc.edu, 704-216-7201). For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, please visit www.rccc.edu or call 704-216-RCCC (7222).