MEDIA RELEASE: Back to Work program addresses unemployment, connects individuals with vital job training

In light of NC’s Community College System’s 50th birthday, it’s crucial to continue funding programs like Back to Work, new report finds 

RALEIGH (March 7, 2013) — As North Carolina’s Community College System celebrates its 50th anniversary, it’s vital for lawmakers to continue funding the system’s programs and recommit to meeting the needs of today’s economy. Addressing long-term unemployment and connecting individuals with credential attainment opportunities through initiatives such as the North Carolina Back to Work Program is critical for the state’s economy, according to a new report.

The Back to Work program is a skills training program designed to provide credential attainment in high-growth industries to people facing long-term unemployed, said a report released this morning by the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. The program was designed to target individuals who have been unemployed for 26 weeks or more and those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

Although the program – which began in August 2012 – is in its early stages, its design holds promise for addressing challenges facing workers who have been out of work for a long time, the report said, as well as means for training students for work in growing industries. Sixteen community colleges applied to be Back to Work sites and met criteria for acceptance, including the number and percentage of long-terms unemployed individuals in the college’s service area and the availability of jobs for which the Back to Work program could prepare students.

The Back to Work program’s long-term success will be contingent on getting sustainable funding over time to fully implement the program and build the capacity of more community colleges in high-need communities to deliver skills training that will lead to competency-based and industry-recognized credentials, the report said. The program was funded by the General Assembly with $5 million in one-time money, which was subsequently supplemented by $2.5 million in Workforce Investment Act funds.

Designing a strong program that can make a difference for long-term unemployment will require multiple years of funding, the report said. Such an investment could improve potential earning gains of workers as well as provide industry with the workforce that can support competition and innovation in the long term.

“The General Assembly’s passage of the NC Back to Work program was a critical first step to not only addressing long-term unemployment in North Carolina but to further building a pathway to credentials for workers across the state,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the Budget & Tax Center and author of the report. “An approach that focuses on credential attainment is a prudent investment that will generate returns for workers, business, and communities alike.”

Read the full report at this link.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Alexandra Forter Sirota,, 919.861.1468; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications,, 503.551.3615 (cell).