The UNC School of Government’s ncIMPACT Initiative announces the selection of 15 community collaboratives to an inaugural cohort to better align their education systems with the needs of their regional economy.

This intensive two-year project will position the cohort to significantly increase the number of individuals with postsecondary degrees, credentials or certificates of value in the workforce. It aligns with the state’s legislative goal of 2 million individuals between the ages of 25-44 who possess a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030.

Funding was provided by the John M. Belk Endowment and Dogwood Health Trust, a private foundation based in Asheville. Their purpose is to dramatically improve the health and well-being of all people and communities of 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary in Western North Carolina.

Helping Inspire Gifts of Hope, Trust and Service is a nonprofit organization serving far-western North Carolina and is among the 15 chosen collaboratives. Aligning with its work providing wrap-around resources to aid in closing the educational attainment gap, HIGHTS will work closely with Jackson County, Jackson County Health Department, Jackson County Public Schools, Southwestern Community College, Southwestern North Carolina Planning and Economic Development Commission, Southwestern Workforce Development Board and First United Methodist Church of Sylva.

“These collaboratives offer an organized way to respond to future work challenges that no single institution or even an entire sector can effectively tackle,” said Anita Brown-Graham, UNC-Chapel Hill professor and director of the ncIMPACT Initiative. “We are eager to begin this important work together.”