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GCS Receives Major Economic Development Grant

April 16, 2024 - North Carolina is the number one state for business, and Guilford County Schools (GCS) students will have the skills necessary to secure a position and succeed in the state’s robust workforce marketplace thanks to significant grants from the GMA/FirstPoint Foundation and the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation.

The two grants, each $500,000, will support renovations of an existing building at Southeast High for the new Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Signature Career Academy (SCA), which will serve students in grades six through 12. In 2019, the Guilford County Board of Education approved the creation of six Signature Career Academies to train students in high-demand careers, including advanced manufacturing, computer and information science, transportation, distribution and logistics, and biomedical and specialized health sciences. Prior to designing the SCA programs, business, education and community leaders convened to discuss community needs and how best to meet them. This collaboration is an example of what can happen when education, business and the community come together.

The Southeast High SCA project reimagines the opportunities for a K-12 public school district to participate in workforce development for students and adults and represents the alignment of the economic development and education sectors in our region to eliminate workforce talent gaps and build prosperity for residents and communities.

“We are working to make GCS the best place to learn, work and grow, and to prepare students to participate in a global economy,” said Dr. Whitney Oakley, Superintendent. “We are grateful for this investment from GMA/FirstPoint Foundation and the Bryan Foundation along with Toyota, into GCS, which will create a robust pool of homegrown skilled talent for companies to hire.”

Education and industry leaders agree that career exploration should begin earlier, and students need more choices in career-specific fields of study by high school. GCS is innovative in the way that it brings workforce development into the classroom. The district has begun to develop a framework of academic courses to align career clusters from elementary school to high school, which includes job shadowing, professional mentoring, internships and apprenticeships in addition to traditional courses. This investment will ensure that students at Southeast High have an opportunity to build their knowledge and foundational skills and earn certifications that give them the power to choose whether they want to move straight into a career or continue their studies after graduation.

“Since 1906, GMA as an organization has backed significant projects for the Piedmont Triad area.  As we look to continue supporting economic development in the region, we are excited to make a substantial investment in young talent in our community,” said David Parrish, Chairman of GMA/First Point.  “This will be the largest grant distributed since our foundation fund was established in 2015.”

“GMA/FirstPoint is excited to partner with the Bryan Foundation, Toyota and the Guilford County Schools to launch this project which will empower our students while investing in our future workforce,” said Mark Prince, President/CEO of GMA/FirstPoint.   

The Joseph M. Bryan Foundation was one of the early investors of the Guilford-Randolph Megasite, which is the new home of Toyota Battery Manufacturing, NC.

“We are proud to continue making significant investments in economic development in the Piedmont Triad,” said Jim Melvin, President & CEO of the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation. “And we are thrilled to support the leadership of Dr. Whitney Oakley and her vision for the future of education in North Carolina.”

Guilford County Schools is currently developing the course pathways for the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering SCA at Southeast. Students can begin taking courses in the fall and will transition into the new space once renovations are complete.