North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University was awarded a $23.7 million American Rescue Plan Good Jobs Challenge grant to create STEPs4GROWTH, a clean energy workforce training program. 

According to the press release, the grant is the largest among the 32 worker-centered, industry-led workforce training partnerships across the country. It is the single-largest award the university has received so far for research.

More than 40 employers, including Strata Clean Energy, Enviva, Siemens, Duke and Blue Ridge Power, have signed on to hire 3,000 STEPs4GROWTH trainees over four years, and 1,500 trainees every year afterward.

“Through this important project, North Carolina A&T will play a leading role in preparing well-trained workers to fill the many skilled jobs in America’s rapidly growing clean energy sector,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “The prescient work of A&T engineering faculty and principal investigators on this grant, Balakrishna Gokaraju, and Greg Monty, has culminated in a novel program for delivering education credentials through stackable certificates.

“Their training program will contribute significantly to preparing the highly skilled clean energy workforce of the future,” he added.

“This is the first-ever Commerce Department initiative where we are totally focused on job training,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “That’s what this is about—real jobs, family-sustaining jobs that everybody can get.”

Congresswoman Alma Adams, an alumnus of the university, was present at the announcement and noted the importance of business partnerships with HBCUs.

“I’m happy to pick up the baton here because, as y’all already know, our national champion Aggies know how to run a relay,” joked Adams, referring to A&T’s national championship 4x400 men’s relay team. “As the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus, I know the power of partnerships with our historically Black colleges and universities. Few institutions are so critical, so central to their communities and their alumni, so HBCUs are a perfect place to build lasting relationships to unlock opportunity.”