Charlotte, NC Colleges, Workforce Boards Fill Job Skills Needs

A strong partnership of business, colleges and workforce development boards are helping Charlotte USA bring skilled job to the region.

Michael Solender
On Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 05:15
Charlotte, NC

Partnership isn't just lip service in Charlotte USA, particularly when it comes to meeting employers' workforce needs. Strong links forged between businesses, colleges and workforce development boards have helped prepare workers for the global marketplace. Area workforce development boards have the job of  coordinating efforts to recruit and train workers that existing and prospective employers are looking for.

Workforce Boards Coordinate Programs

Workforce development boards, such as Centralina and Charlotte Works, draw upon state-sponsored grant programs and the excellent training resources of more than three dozen colleges and universities to furnish a ready supply of qualified workers. These partnerships have received national attention for their success in bridging the skills gap facing companies with growing technological processes and increased global competition.

Siemens Energy recently completed a $350 million gas turbine production facility in Charlotte adjacent to its steam-turbine generating plant. The expansion boosted the company’s employment from 700 workers to more than 1,400 and created a need for additional workers with the proper technical skills. Through an ongoing partnership with Central Piedmont Community College and the workforce development boards, Siemens is getting pre-screening assistance, as well as training courses required to staff up the expansion.

“The Corporate and Continuing Education team at CPCC has been, and will continue to be, a great partner for Siemens Energy in Charlotte,” says Pamela B. Howze, the company’s training and development manager in the Queen City. “They are extremely customer focused, flexible and diligent in meeting all of our training needs.”

CPCC is involved in Apprenticeship 2000, a partnership among several local school districts, area employers including Siemens and the North Carolina Department of Labor. Apprenticeship 2000 is a technical training program that lets local students and workers embark upon a four-year rigorous paid work-study program. Upon successful completion, the apprenticeship transitions to a full-time job.  

Grant Provided to Continue Training

To sustain future training and recruitment throughout the region, CPCC, Siemens, Novant Health, IBM, Business Control Systems, Charlotte Works and Centralina Workforce Development Board partnered on the Regional Effort to Advance Charlotte Information Technology, or “REACH IT.” A $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor will help REACH IT strengthen the tech skills of local workers. CPCC and other regional community and technical colleges partner with workforce development organizations to recruit long-term unemployed workers and provide counseling and job placement services. They also develop new courses and training suited to employer needs.

“We want to be the leader in workforce development,” says Mary Vickers-Koch, dean of Business and Industry Learning at CPCC. “We are very focused on what companies need, and that helps our students develop their real-world skills.”

The workforce boards in Charlotte USA are the primary catalyst in forging public-private workforce partnerships. Their work with the community and technical colleges, JobLink and readySC career centers, and other resources provides the community with employment and training strategies for both job seekers and employers. Schaeffler Group USA, a manufacturer of automotive components, is undergoing a $10 million expansion at its assembly facility in Chesterfield County, S.C. The expansion at the Cheraw plant will increase production of the company’s new MultiAir technology, which enhances engine performance and improves fuel efficiency. The expansion will create 100 new jobs.

Schaeffler Group is utilizing the Pee Dee Workforce Investment Board and the state’s readySC workforce development program to evaluate and help train incoming employees. The Pee Dee workforce board serves six counties and provides employers a range of services including applicant screening, on-the-job training and incumbent worker training programs. The company has made good use of Pee Dee workforce board and readySC services, which has helped speed hiring and provided the company with knowledge on each incoming worker.

“Their evaluations help us choose the best applicants who we will ultimately train through the technical college system,” says Phil Homan, Schaeffler Group USA human resources director in Cheraw.  

Job Seekers, Employers Benefit   

The workforce development boards have helped companies of every size and type in hiring, training and certifications. Advanced Machine & Fabrication, in Denver, N.C., wanted to become more competitive in marketing to the aerospace industry, but needed to acquire an ISO 9100 certification. Through training funds from the state of North Carolina, and working with the Centralina workforce board, Advanced received its certification in December 2011, says Liz Barr, company president.

“By helping us receive this certification, the workforce development board has helped put us on a level playing field to compete for more business,” she says