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Step Up Wilmington and New Hanover County rolling out job training program

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New Hanover County gave out about $3.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act money for business grants and employment assistance. $900,000 of that money was given in partnership between the county and StepUp Wilmington for job training.

About half of the $900,000 is going to a program to train 200 people for full time jobs, including many positions in the film industry — with much of the money going directly into their pockets. They’re paid during the program, and incentivized with another $500 dollars after 30 days at their full-time job. In all, people can make $1000 by the end of the program.

The second half of the funding is going to a project that’s still in the works. The goal of this program, is to employ people on a short-term basis, teaching them the skills they’d need for a full-time job in that vein, and then sending them off to find full-time employment. So during the time they’re training, they’re also making an income.

The philosophy of StepUp Wilmington relies heavily on interpersonal relationships, Executive Director Will Rikard says:

“...let's start with relationships. And so we're all people. And what we see is that a lot of people one starting don't have the opportunity that others do. But we're all human. And so we come together is that when you walk through the doors of stuff at Wilmington, it doesn't matter what your path looks like, it just doesn't matter. What matters is that you're there. And matters is that we're moving forward together.”

Many of the people StepUp works with have some history with substance abuse, or have had experience in the criminal justice system.

Rikard says many people show up saying they’ll take any job they can find – but StepUp wants to slow down the process. The organization not only aims to help people find jobs, but to find themselves, and what they actually want to do for a living.