For the upcoming ReCONNECT to Economic Opportunity forum on Oct. 15 in Charlotte, the Institute for Emerging Issues has chosen five community initiatives from throughout North Carolina that will share with our forum audience how they’re working on economic development in their area. Here, we profile the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) of Rocky Mount, a nonprofit in eastern North Carolina seeking to remove barriers for people to succeed.
Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) of Rocky Mount has served its community for 50 years. By providing education, training and health services to low-resourced populations in Nash and Edgecombe counties, OIC has become the one-stop shop for people trying to change their lives.
OIC serves people at many stages of self-improvement. If someone needs their GED, they can get it at OIC. If someone is looking for a better-paying job, OIC can provide training. And because a person’s health affects their work performance, OIC provides both physical and behavioral health services. Through case management, OIC helps each person determine and accomplish their own goals.
Bridgett Luckey, OIC’s program development manager, says that OIC is in the business of identifying and removing barriers to opportunity. One of the biggest barriers to economic development is cost. OIC offers its programs to students free of charge. Some of its programs even provide small stipends to students so that they can take care of their short-term needs (paying bills) while working on their long-term needs (establishing a career).
One of the most important aspects of providing these services, says Luckey, is “ensuring that anybody that walks through our doors gets an opportunity to leave a different way.” She says that OIC never turns anyone away, serving an average of 25,000 people each year.
Education at any age
Charles Washington has been at OIC for 20 years. As the director of education services, Washington has seen a lot of people coming to OIC to better themselves.
“We’ve had a grandfather graduate,” Washington said, “[He] turned 73 on graduation day, and the reason he said he wanted to do it is because his grandkids keep saying ‘Well, you didn’t graduate and look at you, why should I graduate, I could be like you,’ so he wanted to prove to them that he could do it, and it is important for them to get an education.”
Washington says that it’s gratifying for him to see people succeed academically.
“We have the opportunity to help them overcome all their past failures educationally and obtain their high school credential and then help them grow from there,” said Washington.
Once a client has the necessary education, they can move on to job training. At OIC’s Integrated Training Academy (ITA), students learn the technical and soft skills they’ll need for a career in three booming industries: health, advanced manufacturing, and transportation and construction.
OIC is constantly adapting to what industry needs from its employees. OIC uses evidence-based recommendations from the NC Department of Commerce to determine how to adjust their training programs. In August, OIC is adding a dental assistant program to its offerings.
This adaptability is one reason OIC wanted to participate in the ReCONNECT to Economic Opportunity community cohort.
“We do provide a lot of services here, but we also understand that we can grow, and that we can also improve our processes if there are points of inefficiency,” said Luckey.
Both Luckey and Washington look forward to the opportunity to tell OIC’s story at the ReCONNECT to Economic Opportunity forum in Charlotte on October 15.
For more information about OIC, visit their website.