North Carolina's Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment Grant Award (Project Spark)

The NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services received a $13.8 million federal grant to increase opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve success in Competitive Integrated Employment. 

The primary goal of North Carolina's Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (NCSWTCIE) grant award, or Project Spark, is to support 300 individuals currently engaged in or contemplating subminimum wage employment as they prepare for, engage in and sustain competitive integrated employment as part of a meaningful week.

Competitive Integrated Employment

People engaged in Competitive Integrated Employment work in their community alongside other employees without disabilities, earning at least minimum wage, and getting the same workplace benefits and opportunities as other employees doing the same job. Working in CIE helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) engage more fully in community life, develop meaningful relationships with peers, build new skills and self-esteem, and offers a pathway leading to more informed choices and greater independence.

Timeline and Planned Activities

Funding will be deployed from FFY 2022 – 2027, with service delivery expected to begin in 2024. Below, you’ll find a high-level overview of planned activities: 

Year 1

Program Planning and Development

  • Establish Stakeholder Engagement Advisory Group
  • Establish Memorandums of Understanding and data-sharing agreements with internal and external partners
  • Develop program framework and enhanced service array 
  • Hire SWTCIE staff and train regional pilot teams

Year 2

Initiation of Program Services

  • Begin recruitment of participants with I/DD currently in or contemplating non-CIE work settings
  • Begin delivery of CIE services and supports for participants
  • Begin data collection and analysis to refine program model

Years 3-5

Ongoing Service Provision and Evaluation

  • Ongoing recruitment of participants 
  • Ongoing delivery of CIE services and supports
  • Ongoing data collection and analysis
  • Ongoing evaluation to identify and disseminate best practices and successful strategies for increasing access to CIE

More Information

Pilot Sites have been selected and services were made available on October 1, 2023.  The pilot sites are: Chatham Trades in Siler City, Wake Enterprises in Raleigh and TriCounty Industries in Rocky Mount.  Programs are actively hiring and training their Spark Teams so that Competitive Integrated Employment is an option for people who have historically been served in a Sub-minimum wage service.  We will be providing updates as services begin and people served are actively seeking employment.

Stakeholder Engagement Advisory Group

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The contents of this webpage were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.