Charlotte USA prides itself on providing a trained workforce. More than 50 years ago, the region’s leaders made a commitment to manufacturing companies to provide comprehensive resources for workforce development programs.
"The ability to identify and train a skilled workforce is a critical factor in any company's decision to locate and expand in any state," says Maureen Little, associate vice president of Customized Training with the N.C. Community College System.
Today, college administrators, government officials and industry leaders in Charlotte USA collaborate to offer innovative and flexible programs. With dozens of colleges and universities throughout the two-state, 16-county region, employers have access to workers who have been trained by nationally recognized experts.
Meeting the Needs of the Company
The region's community colleges work closely with local business and industry to build programs to meet their workforce needs. Stanly Community College (SCC), for example, provides client-driven training programs for manufacturing companies at little to no cost to the company or employee.
"We meet with the company to assess what training issues need to be addressed and have instructors customize the curriculum to meet their needs,” says Marion Kinley, director of Economic Development at SCC.
Fiberon, a wood-alternative decking and fencing manufacturer, partnered with SCC to develop a training program. Kinley completed an assessment, met with the managers, toured the facility, and then worked with SCC faculty and regional trainers to develop a program tailored to the specific needs of Fiberon. A series of programs for 316 Fiberon employees over three years was created based on that review.
In South Carolina, York Technical College offers a variety of associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates, including the South Carolina Manufacturing Certification (SCMC). This program is designed to help narrow the skills gaps for today’s advanced manufacturing jobs and create a more qualified workforce. The college also partners with organizations like readySC and Apprenticeship Carolina to promote economic growth and workforce development.
Founded in 1963, Central Piedmont Community College has more than six campuses located throughout the Charlotte area as well as renowned workforce training programs, including concentrations in motorsports and health. CPCC also offers apprenticeship and work-based learning programs that provide valuable hands-on experience.
There’s also the Charlotte Regional Collaborative for a Global Economy, an initiative that brings together 15 community colleges from across Charlotte USA. The goal of the collaborative is to leverage educational resources, workforce development and vocational skills training in order to support the region as a center of global commerce.
Workforce Development Training
Other resources include Catawba Valley Community College’s (CVCC) newly renovated facility, Alexander Applied Technology Center, which is scheduled to open later this year in Alexander County. The facility will house workforce programs for welding and metallurgy technology and turf grass management technology. The Furniture Academy will also be located in this 37,500-square-foot facility.
The Furniture Academy was founded through a partnership between CVCC and several local furniture companies to prepare students for skilled, in-demand positions such as upholsterers and sewers.
“We have a great need to make sure that we have future generations coming into the workforce in specifically sewing and upholstery," says Dan Gauthreaux, vice president of human resources with Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, a furniture manufacturing company in Alexander County. "We understand that training internally as well as partnering with the community colleges is essential for the future of our industry.”
In 2014, several entities came together to form the North Carolina Manufacturing Institute (NCMI). The collaboration of educators, businesses and local government was tasked with building a world-class workforce.
NCMI developed an eight-week program at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College that bridges the gap between high-quality job seekers and available manufacturing positions. Participants are instructed by faculty with a manufacturing background on topics such as timeliness, safety, teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving. Essential job-search skills like resume writing and interviewing are part of the program. For NCMI’s 16 employer partners, the program is vital to recruiting, selecting and retaining talented employees. Potential candidates are better prepared for a position in the manufacturing workforce.
“Companies have really seen the benefit," says David Hollars, executive director of the Centralina Workforce Development Board. "This is a great way to reduce costs to hire, reduce turnover, reduce first-year injuries and lower their staffing costs. You can accelerate that new- hire learning curve.”