Duke Energy funds UNCW program to enhance workforce development

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UNCW chancellor Dr. Zito Sartarelli and Kathy Browder, right, associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services, talk with students Monday. Duke Energy's grant to UNCW will allow the university to better prepare CHHS for the workforce. Photos by Hilary Snow.
UNCW chancellor Dr. Zito Sartarelli and Kathy Browder, right, associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services, talk with students Monday. Duke Energy’s grant to UNCW will allow the university to better prepare CHHS for the workforce. Photos by Hilary Snow.

Of all the missions of a public university, UNC-Wilmington chancellor Dr. Zito Sartarelli believes the most crucial is the development of “human capital.”

In an effort to better prepare more students for the workforce—and keep them working here in the Port City—UNCW’s College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) is expanding its offerings to include more on-the-job training and internship opportunities specifically in the fields of biostatistics and clinical operations.

The expansion—set to be officially unveiled in January—has been made possible through a $390,000 grant from Duke Energy Foundation.

Monday, officials from Duke Energy and the university, along with CHHS students, gathered at McNeill Hall to celebrate the grant announcement.

David Fountain, Duke Energy's N.C. president, said the grant 'embodies collaboration' among area academic and industry leaders.
David Fountain, Duke Energy’s N.C. president, said the grant ’embodies collaboration’ among area academic and industry leaders.

David Fountain, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president, said the public-private partnership “embodies collaboration” across academic disciplines and off campus with nearly a dozen area industries, including PPD and AAI Pharma. The team that developed the initiative included representatives from UNCW’s CHHS, Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Cameron School of Business, along with the Southeastern NC Biotechnology Center.

That collaboration, Fountain added, will make an impact on students.

“They will be given a leg up on not just finding jobs, but finding good jobs,” he noted.

It will also benefit industry, Kathy Browder, associate dean at CHHS, said.

Key to the program, Browder said, is a shared workspace, housed in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where industry partners, faculty and students can work together.

In addition to enhancing the current clinical research and statistics curricula, the grant will help fund internship opportunities. But Browder said it will also allow UNCW to offer continuing education for professionals already in those fields.

She said each of those components add up to a boon for the local economy. Initial projections show that the CHHS initiative will have a regional economic impact of $25 to $50 million over the three-year period of the grant, according to the university.

“It’s a significant impact. This will keep jobs in the region, as well as develop a talent pool here,” Browder said.

The grant is part of Duke Energy Foundation’s $2 million investment in workforce development with six UNC system schools as part of its continued effort to attract and retain businesses within its service territories.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.