North Carolina State Profile

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI)
Raleigh, NC

BEST NC Business for Educational Success and Transformation (DBA BEST NC)
Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Community College System Office
Raleigh, NC

Office of the Governor
Raleigh, NC

Asheboro City Schools District
Asheboro, NC

Brunswick County Schools
Bolivia, NC

Columbus County Schools District
Whiteville, NC

Wayne County Public Schools
Goldsboro, NC

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
Winston Salem, NC

Educational and Workforce Landscape

Secondary K–12

Governed by:
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

Public school enrollment K–12:
1,486,860 (Traditional and Public Charter)

School Districts: 115

Public school enrollment 9–12:

Graduation rate: 87%

CTE Participation rate:
547,176 students (2022–23)

CTE graduation rate: 97.46%


Governed by:

  • North Carolina Community College System
  • University of North Carolina System
  • NC Independent Colleges and Universities

Enrollment/Completion Data:

  • Community Colleges: 67%
  • 4-Year Public University: 69% (based on 2016 cohort rate)
  • 4-year Private University

Number by Type of Schools

  • 2-year Community College: 58
  • 4-year Public University: 17
  • 4-year Private University:36


Workforce Agency:
North Carolina Chamber of Commerce

Top Industries/Jobs:

  • Health care, education, clean energy, battery and EV production, finance, life sciences (including gene therapy), technology/ computer science (including quantum computing), aviation, manufacturing, and agriculture
  • The NCWorks Commission endorses career pathways across the state. This certification ensures that enrollees have access to the best education, training, and work-based learning opportunities as they pursue careers in high-demand occupations.
  • North Carolina has 20 local workforce development boards.

Job Openings to Worker Ratio
.9 job seekers to job openings in NC (2023)

Points of Interest

  • 32% of 12th graders in Career and College Promise/ dual enrollment
  • 134 cooperative innovative high schools (early colleges) located in 98% of NC counties. All are aligned as either college transfer or CTE postsecondary pathways
  • Renewed and revised statewide K12 to community college articulation agreement in 2023 to enhance credit for prior learning for K12 students
  • State Board of Education approved Partnership Agreements between K12 and Community Colleges to strengthen collaboration and support student success
  • Leading state in applying data driven solutions to pandemic learning recovery

Other facts:

  • K-12 $11.3B in state funding (43%)
  • General Assembly appropriated 18+ million in recurring funding to pay for K12 CTE credential assessments
  • NC DPI redesigning school performance grades to include (post-secondary preparation, employed/enlisted/enrolled, and other indicators).

North Carolina rolled out a statewide Portrait of a Graduate in October 2022. Fostering the North Carolina Portrait of a Graduate Durable Skills – Adaptability, Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Empathy, Learner’s Mindset, and Personal Responsibility – is imperative for student success. Preparing our youth for strong postsecondary outcomes is the most important job of our public schools. Students deserve to graduate prepared for the post-graduation pathway of their choice, be it employment, enrollment in higher education, or enlistment in military service. Research shows that in North Carolina, two thirds of the jobs in growing sectors require more than a high school diploma, and that employers seek both durable and technical skills. Currently, test scores define school and student success, but future jobs demand more than testing acumen. According to the North Carolina Employer Needs Survey, businesses in North Carolina are having trouble finding entry-level talent who possess the skills necessary to be successful in the workplace. Additionally, non-profit education advocacy organization America Succeeds combed through 82 million job postings and discovered that about seven out of 10 skills requested by employers were durable skills. This led us to create a more relevant, multi-faceted tool that allows educators and school leaders to focus on the life-long, durable skills that students need to be successful no matter their post-secondary path. To learn more about North Carolina’s Portrait of a Graduate visit

Advanced Math Coursework Placement (Autoenrollment): North Carolina is the only state in the nation to have an automatic advanced math placement policy beginning in elementary school, following the 3rd grade EOG assessments. This ensures that all students who are talented in mathematics can have access to advanced coursework. In the 2021-22 school year, 91% of eligible students were enrolled in an advanced math course, with even higher rates in 8th grade (98%) and 10th grade (97%).

SparkNC is being piloted in 18 districts this school year to help students engage with high-tech fields like artificial intelligence and machine learning, software development, computer systems engineering, cybersecurity, Esports and game development. Through SparkLabs across our interdistrict network, learners will have opportunities to explore these fields and collaboratively prepare for modern work.

  • 10 HBCUs in North Carolina – they most 4-year HBCUs in the country
  • Every North Carolinian is within 30 minutes of a community college.
  • North Carolina is ranked #1 in business for two consecutive years by CNBC!
  • North Carolina educational attainment goal: 2 million degrees or industry-valued credentials by 2030

College & Career Pathways Successes

Shared, common goal

Working collaboratively with institutions of higher education, the military and economic development community to ensure workforce alignment.

Proposing employed, enlisted or enrolled and/or post-secondary preparation integration into school performance grade redesign, as part of Operation Polaris, the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s strategic plan.

Legislation to support pathways

Goals and Priorities for Launch

North Carolina K-12 students benefit from exceptional access to CTE courses, instructors, and state level infrastructure and support. There are, however, gaps in access to high-quality pathways and curriculum, especially in our rural districts and in middle grades across the state. The pandemic has amplified the inequities in high-speed internet access, quality work-based learning opportunities, and even awareness about career-connected educational offerings like CTE and the North Carolina Career and College Promise dual enrollment program for middle school and high school students. We also have a significant gap in CTE teacher preparation and in our articulation agreements to North Carolina’s outstanding 58 community colleges.

Historically, North Carolina has been anchored by agriculture, textiles, and NASCAR. We are an economy in transition, however. The state has attracted more than $24 billion in new business investment from top global brands like Apple, Google, Amazon, Toyota, VinFast, Eli Lily, and Boom Supersonic. This offers incredible employment opportunities for North Carolina students! At the same time, North Carolina is a net importer of talent, filling many of the high-value jobs. We have an obligation to ensure that North Carolinians, and specifically the students graduating from our public schools, are prepared for the jobs that are coming to our state. That will require stronger business partnerships and pathways for middle and high school students.

There is also a great need for stronger alignment between growing industry sectors like technology, clean energy, battery manufacturing, construction/skilled trades, health care and life sciences. With companies like Toyota, Wolfspeed, VinFast, Eli Lily, Pratt and Wittney, SoElect and others investing in North Carolina, we must ensure that every student, regardless of zip code or identity, is aware of and prepared for careers with these top employers.

North Carolina would also benefit from connecting with peers who are tackling questions around work-based learning, career advising, requiring a career development plan, integration with technology platforms and the building of competencies and durable skills.

Local District Profiles

Asheboro City Schools

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

4,428 students; 50% Hispanic population; urban located in the middle of Randolph County

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

Innovative Rural district with focus on equity and access to advanced learning opportunities

Asheboro City Schools (ACS) is a medium sized school district that is situated in the middle of Randolph County, which is geographically located in the center of North Carolina. Our district has one comprehensive high school, two middle schools, five elementary schools and one early childhood development center.Randolph County is home to the North Carolina Zoological Park (NC Zoo) and Asheboro High School has the unique opportunity to have a satellite campus located on the NC Zoo property. Asheboro Zoo School revolves around CTE Agricultural courses and specialty science courses. Our collaboration with the NC Zoo offers many work-based learning and real world experiences to our students. Randolph Community College (RCC) has established an Agribusiness Pathway that is tailored around the NC Zoo Horticulture program that includes dual enrollment for our high school students. There are plans to expand our CTE offerings to include some Marketing and work-based learning for Food and Nutrition students.

ACS CTE has worked with RCC to establish an Automotive Collision Institute that offers a certificate program to students that wish to go directly into the workforce after graduation. There are plans to expand the institute model to other pathways within the current school year. RCC also works closely with ACS to develop local articulation agreements; our next discussions are beginning around Advanced Manufacturing and Interior Design.

Asheboro City Schools participates in the North Carolina Career and College Promise program. This program offers structured opportunities for qualified high school students to dually enroll in community college courses that provide pathways that lead to a certificate, diploma, degree, or State or industry-recognized credential as well as provide entry-level jobs skills. Career and College Promise offers North Carolina high school students a clear path to success in college and/or in a career. The program is tuition-free to all North Carolina students who meet the eligibility requirements.

Brunswick County Schools

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

13,704 students and coastal

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

Very strong CTE programs and innovative COAST technical training center

Brunswick County is the fastest growing county in the state (8,250 people or 5.7% growth from 2021-2022). Brunswick County ranked 7th in the nation for population growth in 2021-2022. Located between two larger metropolitan areas (Wilmington and Myrtle Beach).

Very Strong CTE and innovative Center of Applied Science (COAST) – District wide transportation is provided for all students. Program areas include Aerospace Engineering, Clean Energy Technology, Cyber Security, Network Security, Technology Engineering & Design, Teaching as a Profession, Public Safety, Digital Design & Animation, Game Art & Design, Automotive Technology.

A leader in offering Career and College Promise advanced learning opportunities to students. This program offers structured opportunities for qualified high school students to dually enroll in community college courses that provide pathways that lead to a certificate, diploma, degree, or State or industry-recognized credential as well as provide entry-level jobs skills. Career and College Promise offers North Carolina high school students a clear path to success in college and/or in a career. The program is tuition-free to all North Carolina students who meet the eligibility requirements (in place to ensure success).

Through this program Brunswick County School and Brunswick Community College serve 24.09% of 11th or 12th graders who take at least one dual enrollment course (2021-2022 data). That means 409 students in the 2021-2022 school year participated in this great opportunity.

Brunswick County Schools and Brunswick Community College have created a partnership where they work together for the benefit of all Brunswick County students. They partner in ensuring the success of all students in their secondary and post-secondary courses. We have updated the annual Memorandum of Understanding for each area of our partnership and are continuously working to extend our collaboration.

Columbus County Schools

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

5,263 students

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

Grit and Partnership between K12 and Community College Drive Student Success

Columbus County is located in a very low economic area with high poverty and limited industry. We have developed our Summer Career Accelerator as an intense 5 week program conducted in partnership with Southeastern Community College. Students are able to receive 3 hours of college credit, a CTE credit, and a workforce valued credential upon completion of the program. We have just completed our second year of the program. Our first year saw 39 students complete. Our second year saw 60 students complete. Areas of learning available to students include: carpentry, HVAC, welding, nursing, early childhood development, intro to teaching, engineering and agri-business.

In a low wealth rural district we rely on a strong relationship with Southeastern Community college to enhance student outcomes and postsecondary preparation (a Career and College Promise Program). We welcome college faculty to our campuses to teach courses which are supported by an articulation and partnership agreement. More than 50 students each semester earn both high school and college credits, including industry valued credentials, preparing them for a brighter future beyond graduation.

Tom McLam,
Executive Director of Curriculum,
Director of Federal Programming and CTE

Wayne County Public Schools

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

  • 17,400 students (PreK-12)
  • Rural/Urban Population
  • Home to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (2,000 Military Connected Students), which houses the first public school located on a military installation in NC.

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

Located in Eastern North Carolina, Wayne County Public Schools (WCPS) is the 21st largest public school district in North Carolina. The district’s 33 schools offer a variety of high quality academic programs in a technology rich environment to help motivate and engage students in learning.

WCPS is committed to producing competent high-tech employees that can be successful in today’s workplace. As part of its ongoing efforts to bridge the gap between school and the workforce, the district has worked to engage industry and institutions of higher learning to ensure curricular offerings and career pathways align with local, state and national workforce needs. In addition to exposure to digital teaching and learning efforts in traditional K-12 classrooms, middle and high school students have the opportunity to take part in relevant project-based Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses, which include summer accelerator programs. Through hands-on experiences, CTE students learn critical elements and skills needed in essential career fields.

Recognizing that some career paths require higher education, WCPS maintains a strong collaborative partnership with Wayne Community College and other area institutions of higher learning to offer a strong menu of curriculum pathways which lead to workforce certifications and job-readiness. WCPS students have the opportunity to take part in college classes and take advantage of a myriad of course offerings. Additionally, to address immediate workforce needs, local pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs are being developed to give students the necessary skills to successfully enter fields rich with openings and opportunities for advancement.

We are committed to remove barriers and help prepare students for personal and professional success after graduation. Through a chosen pathway, beginning in the middle school CTE program and culminating at Wayne Community College, together we are helping equip students for success with a career choice that can lead to further education or direct employment.

Stephen Kelley,
WCPS Director of CTE

Winston-Salem Forsyth County

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

  • 53,000 students
  • Urban district
  • Piedmont-Triad Region (Northwest)

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

Strong community support and a commitment to developing Durable Skills found in the NC Portrait of a Graduate drive postsecondary success

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools formed in 1963 with the merger of the Winston-Salem and Forsyth County districts. It is the fourth-largest system in North Carolina and the 81st-largest in the nation.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools serves more than 53,000 students in Pre-K through Grade 12 with the goal of providing a quality education for each child. The school system has 42 elementary schools, 15 middle schools, and 16 high schools. Eight specialty schools bring the system-wide total to 81.

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Career and Technical Education Program serves over 30,000 middle and high school students each year and offers 40 different career pathways. It is our goal to create innovative learning spaces to connect learning outside of traditional classroom settings. The district is committed to additional non-degree credential attainment, while students are in high school. Many of our career pathways are supported by Career and College Promise. The district benefits from significant community support, including the Crosby Scholars program. The Crosby Scholars Program helps students achieve in and out of the classroom and contribute to the community. Since 1992, Crosby Scholars has provided career and college exploration, admissions and financial aid workshops, advising services, mentoring, college campus visits, community service opportunities, cultural experiences, and over $980,000 in scholarships and Last Dollar Grants for college tuition annually. Crosby Scholars now serves more than 11,000 students each year and has assisted over 35,000 Forsyth County students for college and for life. Crosby scholars staff work in lock step with school counselors and families to ensure equity and access.

Finally, the WSFC School board recently voted to adopt the NC Portrait of a Graduate, a deeper learning model that develops durable skills and workforce readiness.

We are committed to building access to advanced learning like Career and College Promise and CTE with a laser focus on career readiness. We are also creating a learning community that values varied postsecondary opportunities and building our student’s durable skills which are valued by employers and higher education.

Dr. Paula Wilkins,
WSFCS Chief Academic Officer

Reference Links and More Information

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