A program launched this week aims to boost the area’s workforce by offering apprenticeships at CastleBranch, a compliance management and infectious disease screening company based in Wilmington.
New Hanover County is partnering with CastleBranch, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, New Hanover County Schools and Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) on the four-year pilot apprenticeship program.
The program was approved as part of New Hanover County’s Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget, adopted Monday, and will be funded through American Rescue Plan funds in its first two years, according to a New Hanover County news release.
Each year, 10 students from New Hanover County Schools will be selected and offered an entry-level position with CastleBranch while they attend CFCC, the release stated.
“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,” the release stated.
Once students graduate from CFCC, they can continue full-time employment with CastleBranch with the option to choose from various professional career paths in the company.
“The Wilmington business community has a long-standing equity gap, and we must approach solutions to this disparity with honest vision and clarity of purpose,” said CastleBranch CEO Brett Martin in a news release from the company. “Creating opportunities builds connections, networks and prosperity. When this foundation is strong, it empowers everyone in the community.”
Julia Olson-Boseman, chairwoman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, said in the county release, “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.”
Poonam Kahlon, CastleBranch’s director of talent development, said in the company’s release that the program will give participants a robust and early start to their transition to and through professional life.
“Many individuals in our community face systemic obstacles to obtaining career stability,” Kahlon said. “We are thrilled to be a part of a solution that will improve the talent pipeline in our community, create mentorship opportunities and help students find and maintain a solid, guided pathway to a career they are passionate about.”
Wilmington Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Natalie English said in the county release, "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.”