Hamilton County career center receives $20,000 grant


By Chris Bavender

The Duke Energy Foundation recently awarded the Hamilton County Center for Career Achievement a $20,000 grant. The money will be used to support the development and expansion of educational programming for students in the Hamilton County public school systems.

The HCCCA was established in June to coordinate and expand course offerings for students in all six public school systems within Hamilton County. Its mission is to provide students an understanding of high-wage, high-demand jobs available in their communities while giving them the education, credentials and college credits to pursue those occupations after leaving high school.

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“The idea is to expand career and tech offerings. When you think of careers and tech, there is a stigma that it is only things such as construction and cosmetology. But the goal of every high school student is to have a career at some point,” said Carrie Lively, the career center’s executive director. “The funding is helping identify curriculum that needs to be adjusted and adapted for the career force and to recruit students and to really grow and retrain our own talent pipeline in Hamilton County.”

Community Relations Manager for Duke Energy Mark Labarr said the company wants to help every student realize their full potential.

“We are fully supportive of this work. When folks are skilled up for the changing economy and workforce needs, when our communities thrive, that is when Duke is thriving as well,” he said. “When the economy is going well and growing and expanding well, Duke is, too.”

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Labarr pointed to careers at Duke as an example of what is available to students after high school that they might not be aware of.

“Certainly, college is appropriate for a number of students, but we have jobs – good-paying jobs available with a high school diploma, such as line work with a four-year apprenticeship paid for by Duke,” he said. “And after four years, they can be earning six figures without going to college, and I think that would be attractive to folks.”

“These are the conversations we have to have to destigmatize these opportunities,” Lively said. “We have told students there is one pathway, and that is to graduate high school and go to college and find a job. But there are a lot of jobs that can provide for your family and provide great futures for a child that does not meet the college-for-all rhetoric. A big focus of HCCCA is educating the community on occupations that are available.”

HCCCA plans to pilot multiple programs in fall 2022 to offer opportunities not previously available to students.

“We are looking at building a program in key economic sectors – ag, health care, manufacturing, construction trade and cybersecurity,” Lively said. “In talking with schools and the community and employers in and around Hamilton County, we want to really focus on key sectors that are underserved right now.”

The funding will run through September 2022. The HCCCA is managed by Invest Hamilton County, the county’s local economic development organization, in direct coordination with representatives from the six Hamilton County school corporations.