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Made in Durham


Durham, N.C., is thriving. It has a strong employer base, it’s not short of good jobs, and its employment growth rate is projected to outstrip state and U.S. averages by 2021. Yet too few of Durham’s young people are getting these good jobs, and too few have the academic and workplace skills to compete with more qualified candidates from other cities and states. Roughly half of Durham's youth and young adults will complete high school, achieve a postsecondary credential of some kind, and gain employment by the time they are 25. But a substantial number will struggle in the process, and some will not make it at all. There are now between 4,500 and 6,000 disconnected youth—enough to fill four Durham high schools—who are either at significant risk of dropping out of high school, or who are not pursuing any education, training, or employment. All of them have talent and the aspiration for a better life. Together, they represent a source of workforce skills, civic participation, and taxpayer revenue that Durham can ill afford to waste.

Made in Durham is a community partnership of educators, business, government, nonprofits, youth and young adults mobilized around a shared vision that all of Durham’s youth will complete high school and a postsecondary credential and begin a rewarding career by the age of 25.

Made in Durham partners collaborate to link work and learning more effectively. By strengthening existing initiatives and creating new ones, partners aim to create an effective education–to-career system that prepares all of Durham’s young people for careers and builds a pipeline of local talent that helps regional companies compete and grow.

Seeded and incubated by MDC with business and community leaders, the Made in Durham partnership formed a nonprofit organization, also called Made in Durham, in February 2015 to facilitate the partnership. Many local business and community leaders who envisioned and created the partnership, including MDC President David Dodson, now serve on its board of directors and advisory team.

Made in Durham’s action plan for fiscal year 2016 calls for partners and action teams to focus on six strategic areas to achieve their shared vision and goals:

  • Strategic Leadership – Building an effective operating model for community collaboration.
  • Data for Decision-making – Tracking young people and their education-to-career path to enable strategic action, chart progress and measure success.
  • Career Pathways – Facilitating the construction of a sequence of courses and associated supports that lead to credentials valued in the local labor market.
  • Employer Engagement – Engaging employers deeply in developing an education-to-career system that establishes a robust talent pipeline to meet their labor needs. 
  • Youth Engagement – Ensuring youth and young adults inform and fully participate in creating and evaluating Durham’s education-to-career system.
  • Opportunity Youth – Developing a clear sequence of steps by which young people who are behind or disconnected from school or work can complete high school and postsecondary education

For more information, visit

Made in Durham grew out of an effort begun in June 2013, when the Made in Durham Task Force, composed of local business CEOs, education and public sector leaders, and community advocates, convened to translate the recommendations of a 2012 MDC report: Made in Durham: Building an Education to Career System  into a blueprint for an education-to-career system. Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the Institute of Medicine (formerly president & CEO of Duke University Health System), served as Chair of the Task Force and Anita Brown-Graham, director of the Institute for Emerging Issues, as vice-chair. The task force was supported by a Policy Working Group, composed of public sector deputies, academics, employers, and community representatives, bringing additional subject knowledge and a critical operational perspective to recommendations for task force deliberation. 

The task force determined that a new, small, independent nonprofit was needed to execute the Made in Durham Action Plan, and the process of establishing a new nonprofit is now complete. For more information, visit

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For more information on MDC and Made in Durham, contact: Meredythe J. Holmes.