Cross Campus Collaboration Nets N.C. A&T $7.5 Million Contract with U.S. Dept. of Labor


The Division of Research and Economic Development (DORED) at North Carolina A&T State University in conjunction with Lead Principal Investigator Dr. Cameron Seay, in the College of Science and Technology, has secured a federal contract through the U.S. Department of Labor. The five-year contract, with a value of $7.5 million, will be utilized to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related fields. The contract will focus specifically on information technology as it relates to talent development for mainframe computers, on which the global economy depends.

The term “mainframe computer” is usually associated with the IBM Corporation. With the advent and wide availability of micro-computing in the 1980s and beyond, mainframes were targeted for extinction because of their immense size and cost. While smaller computers with tremendous power have indeed revolutionized information technology, the heaviest input/output functions such as transaction processing, airline reservations and cellular signal routing are still left to the heavy lifters: mainframe computers. Although these big workhorses still play a vital role in the technology spectrum, the United States is facing a looming problem: the employees who have understood and serviced mainframes since the 1980s are retiring at a staggering rate.

“It’s true,” explains Seay. “Over the last 40 years, the lion’s share of IT talent has been attracted to the microcomputing sector, leaving mainframes comparatively untouched and unstudied. Most universities stripped mainframe technology from their curriculum long ago, which is why we’re facing a talent vacuum today. Fortunately, N.C. A&T has retained a robust and growing technology education and training program in this area, and we’re ready to step up for the Department of Labor, the corporate entities, and indeed the world economy which relies so heavily on this important technology.”

This contract has been named The LEAD-IT Project, which stands for Leadership, Empowerment, Apprenticeship, and Diversity in Information Technology. The five-year project, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, will involve seven N.C. A&T faculty, including Drs. Gina Bullock, Maya Corneille, Loury Floyd, Karen Jackson, Anna Lee, Evelyn Sowells and Seay as well as three full time graduate students for the full five years. The contract will be completed in several phases supporting impactful outreach activities including the events and training necessary to rapidly fill a pipeline of mainframe computing talent.

Seay has been nurturing the university’s relationship with the Department of Labor for several years, with assistance from N.C. A&T Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development.

“Pursuing an opportunity of this magnitude has put our cross-disciplinary research strengths on display,” said Burks. “The resources and expertise across our Departments of Computer Systems Technology, Psychology and Education were all brought to bear on securing this project, and it’s an honor to serve the Department of Labor’s workforce development interests and to position our graduates to fill these high-paying, high-demand jobs in the IT industry. Although N.C. A&T is the lead institution on this project, we have assembled a strong team of collaborators including industry leaders and community service organizations.”

Additional collaborators include the IBM Corporation, SHARE Association, IT-oLogy, Mobile Collaborative Education Consulting, Vets in Tech, Indiana University – Minority Serving Institution STEM Initiative, Mentor Services and Capital Area Workforce Development Board.

The DORED manages N.C. A&T’s research enterprise. It serves the university and its research efforts through research services and project management, compliance and ethics guidelines, aiding in the submission of research proposals, handling financial and regulatory administration of all contracts and grants awarded to N.C. A&T, management of the university’s technology transfer and commercialization programs and promotion opportunities for undergraduates to conduct research.

About North Carolina A&T State University
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is the nation’s largest historically black university. It is a land-grant, higher research university and constituent member of the University of North Carolina system. A&T is known for its leadership in producing graduates in engineering, agriculture and other STEM fields. The university was founded in 1891 and is located in Greensboro, North Carolina.