NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – New Hanover County is partnering with CastleBranch, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, New Hanover County Schools, and Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) on an apprenticeship program to develop a workforce pipeline from our local high schools to successful careers and professional readiness with CastleBranch.
The four-year pilot apprenticeship program was approved as part of New Hanover County’s recently-adopted Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget and will be funded through American Rescue Plan funds in its first two years. Each year, 10 students from New Hanover County Schools will be selected and offered an entry level position with CastleBranch while they attend CFCC.
New Hanover County will pay the tuition expenses for each student participating in the program, and the county’s Office of Diversity and Equity in partnership with CFCC and CastleBranch will provide students with mentoring to ensure they are successful in school while also being successful in a job. Once the student graduates from CFCC, they will be able to continue full-time employment with CastleBranch with the option to choose from various professional career paths in the company.
“I am excited about the opportunities that will come from this innovative program, how it will help students move ahead into successful careers, and provide CastleBranch with a direct talent pipeline to build their workforce,” said New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman. “Building a strong, diverse, local talent pool is critical to attract and retain high-quality employers in our community, and I appreciate the collaboration across the public and private sectors to make this program possible.”
“CastleBranch is delighted to initiate and extend this tremendous opportunity to provide the skills, on-the-job training, mentorship, and resources for the participants in the Professional Readiness Program to begin their transition to and through professional life,” said CastleBranch’s Director of Talent Development Poonam Kahlon. “Creating opportunities for talented, determined individuals early in their journey is an important step in nurturing local talent, bridging the equity gap and uplifting our community.”
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, employers across our country were facing challenges attracting, retaining, and developing talent,” said Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Natalie English. “Fortunately for Wilmington, our chamber had already been engaged with our partners in New Hanover County Government and Cape Fear Community College to develop a modern apprenticeship program that would provide alternative pathways for people to learn and grow in a career. We’re grateful to CastleBranch for their willingness to help us introduce this program to the community. Apprenticeships aren’t just for manufacturing or other manual labor jobs. I would encourage other employers in our community to consider how an apprenticeship program could help them avoid skill-shortage disruptions by taking more control over their talent pipeline development.”
“What an honor for New Hanover County Schools to join forces with New Hanover County, CastleBranch, and the Chamber to establish this partnership,” said New Hanover County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Charles Foust. “The district, along with these community partners, are providing our students with the tools needed for a successful future. This is an opportunity for students to be fully supported while receiving a college education and gaining valuable on-the-job training.”
Ten students have been selected for the first year of this program, and started their apprenticeship journey with CastleBranch this week. Those names and additional information will be shared by New Hanover County Schools.
This new program is a strategic initiative of the county’s Strategy and Diversity & Equity offices, to create opportunities for diversity, economic mobility and advance the county’s overall economic development strategy.