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Wilmington City Council approves $2.5 million in APRA funding for "DigitalBridge" jobs program

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At last night’s meeting, Wilmington City Council unanimously approved spending $2.5 million from federal Covid recovery funds on an employment program aimed at connecting residents to tech-sector and digital industry jobs.

The American Rescue Plan act funds will help provide digital skills training and job placement services, focusing on what the city calls quote “high opportunity, high need” census tracts around the city. According to recent survey data, the city expects that many of the over 17,000 jobs to be added in the region between 2020 and 2023 will require these 'digital skills.'

The program, called Digital Bridge Wilmington, is expected to launch early next year. StepUp Wilmington, a non-profit employment service, will house the program at the Harrelson Center in downtown Wilmington and "will lean into its extensive local employer relationships and existing outreach channels," according to the city.

Cape Fear Collective will oversee the "Talent Pipeline Management," and will evaluate the services provided, as well as helping with curriculum and program development. The Wireless Research Center of North Carolina will oversee the program, service delivery, and budgeting.

While the initial funding will come from ARPA funds, the city expects Digitial Bridge to become self-sustaining over time; potential longer-term funding could come from corporate sponsorships, grants, and federal funding.

The program is one of seral major investments that the city has made using federal funding aimed at economic recovery from the pandemic, including $3.5 million dollars for affordable housing and $2 million dollars for small business support.

The City of Wilmington received approximately $26 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law March 11, 2021, and disbursed to the city through two installments of approximately $13 million over two years. The funds must be obligated by the end of 2024, but can be spent beyond that.