Lincoln County March 2023


County Seat

Median Income

Population Density Designation
Regional City/Suburban

When the Extra Miles Tour headed for Lincoln County, the route led directly to Lincoln County School of Technology. There, the team learned more about Lincoln County Strong, one of the ncIMPACT collaboratives (a community data and innovation initiative funded in part by Blue Cross NC).

Dr. Anita Brown-Graham, Director of ncIMPACT and Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, kicked the discussion off by explaining the urgent need to get young adults re-engaged with their education and on pathways to rewarding job opportunities. At the height of the pandemic, estimates predicted that 11% of young adults in North Carolina would be disconnected from school and employment; subsequent surveys indicated that, in actuality, 30% were. These are the “Opportunity Youth” that ncIMPACT tries to reach, and the array of activity in Lincoln County exemplifies how agencies and industry can partner to re-engage and re-inspire.

The School of Technology reflects the county’s dedication to promoting a school curriculum focused on building important skills for STEM careers while providing apprenticeship opportunities within the county. Career Technical Education (CTE) programs help students learn about topics ranging from robotics to web design. Additionally, middle and high school students have access to career exploration tools and apprenticeships. Last year, a career fair specifically designed for middle school students drew 90% of the students … and that was in the summer! The school’s Project 4-14 initiative focuses on helping children see beyond narrow, socially determined career options.

“We want young girls to see themselves as welders. Children with disabilities can be more than greeters,” said Dr. Aaron Allen, the school’s superintendent.

All of this helps to address one of the key challenges that Opportunity Youth face: A stifling lack of imagination when it comes to thinking of realistic and rewarding job opportunities in the area.

The group also shared the strategies that the county’s alternative school is taking to ensure its students get on track toward success. Representatives from the Asbury Academy were also on hand for the discussion. The school’s transition coach explained that her students face unique challenges: Widespread public perception assumes that the students she works with are “bad kids.”

“They just need people to see them as a possibility,” she added.

To this end, the school’s Asbury Works initiative offers monthly programming designed to enhance marketability and awareness for future job candidates. Workshops include:

  • Soft skills training
  • Employer guest speakers
  • Financial literacy
  • Hands-on skills training (with topics ranging from oil changes to necktie knots)

Lincoln County faces some significant challenges in strengthening its workforce capacity. The county’s schools are significantly understaffed when it comes to counselors (in fact, some schools have a 600 to 1 counselor-to-student ratio). As a result, counseling resources are stretched thin, with little capacity to respond to mental health needs beyond crisis situations.

“Counselors are trained in career counseling, but they’re too busy putting out fires,” said the principal.

For individuals in the job market, transportation is one of the greatest needs. The Manager of Lincoln Economic Development Association explained that the area’s public transportation only runs from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., making it unfeasible for those working normal business hours. In addition, it’s free only within the city, but Lincolnton’s major industrial park is outside the city limits. There are no commercial ride-sharing operations in the county.

During the vibrant conversation about all the exciting work taking place in Lincoln County, the discussion repeatedly circled back to the idea that students aren’t the only ones who need to think outside the box when it comes to imagining professional possibilities. Adults also need to be retrained to see that a four-year degree is one of many pathways to a lucrative and fulfilling career.

Meet Dr. Algie Gatewood

Dr. Algie Gatewood is only the fourth President to lead Alamance Community College (ACC) since it opened in 1958. During Dr. Gatewood’s tenure at ACC, the college won its largest ever bond referendum – nearly $40 million – in 2018 to fund a number of major capital projects and expansions. The college also secured $16 million in county funding in 2014 to build the Advanced Applied Technology Center. Other notable accomplishments include creating a Biotechnology Center of Excellence, introducing an Early College, facilitating an apprenticeship program, and introducing nearly two dozen new academic programs and articulation agreements with state universities.

All other trade names are the property of their respective owners.

U39702, 4/23