A $25 million appropriation in the North Carolina budget this year championed by Senator Tom McInnis (R) and Representative Neal Jackson (R) will allow Moore County to begin planning for its first cooperative early college high school. The appropriation, which is part of the biennial budget recently proposed by the General Assembly provides a grant to Sandhills Community College for capital improvements or equipment for a new vocation career path early college high school.

This initiative represents a true partnership among the General Assembly, Sandhills Community College, Moore County Government, and Moore County Schools. The investment made by the General Assembly is the catalyst to provide real vocational opportunities and economic mobility for students in the Sandhills region.

Given the incredible growth of industry anticipated for central North Carolina in the next decade, initial planning has focused on creating an early college high school offering vocational career paths, such as engineering, manufacturing, construction, and other trades industry certifications, credentials, and degrees.

“North Carolina is once again rated the best state in America in which to do business. The focus for this early college high school will be on providing meaningful career paths in the trades which have tremendous earning potential. These career paths are in incredible demand in our region and across the state,” Senator Tom McInnis on the new early college high school. Representative Neal Jackson added, “There are many paths to a successful career. This initiative with Sandhills Community College will provide paths to in-demand careers which are essentially debt-free for the student.”

Moore County Schools and Sandhills Community College (SCC) have a long history of working together. Already, a large number of Moore County high school students are dual enrolled in SCC courses. This new initiative for vocational career paths deepens that partnership and recognizes the true opportunity that workforce training holds for high school students.

“Sandhills already has one very successful early college on our Hoke Center—SandHoke Early College—a partnership with the Hoke County School System, so we know how to make this model work. We are really excited about partnering with Moore County Schools to provide direct pathways to great vocational employment opportunities for these students, right out of high school. The College is very excited and grateful for the investment made by the General Assembly in Moore County.” Sandhills Community College President Sandy Stewart offered.

“Moore County Schools is also extremely excited and grateful for this opportunity for our students, parents and community that is being provided by the General Assembly. This will complement and build upon an already strong partnership with Sandhills Community College and offer great opportunities for our students to be prepared for meaningful and high earning career paths here in our region and state.” Moore County Schools Superintendent Tim Locklair stated.

North Carolina is home to 134 Cooperative Innovative High Schools. These schools are required to have no more than 100 students per grade level to ensure a high-quality learning environment, and they all represent a partnership between the local school system and a collaborative community college or university. High school retention and completion rates for early college high schools are consistently well above state averages, with 95% of these students achieving higher than average graduation rates1.
The early college high school model is not new to North Carolina. However, the early college high school model focused on vocational career paths is somewhat novel. This initiative has the potential to provide career opportunities for students, economic development opportunities for the region, and possibly a new educational model for the state.

As this initiative takes shape, the focus will be on providing meaningful career paths in the trades which have tremendous earning potential. Moore County Commissioners Chairman Nick Picerno said, “Workforce training for Moore County, especially at the high school and college level, is critical to the continued economic growth of our region.”