In high demand

Program aims to develop manufacturing skills
Jul. 26, 2014 @ 05:14 PM

Manufacturing gurus — and those seeking to become ones — are invited to an information session at Vance-Granville Community College on Monday to learn about a new program aimed at bringing trade skills back to North Carolina.

The session will be held at the college’s south campus, 1547 South Campus Drive, Creedmoor, in Room G134 from 3 to 6 p.m. The program will start this fall.

Applied technologies department chairman Wesley Williams said the new mechatronics engineering technology curriculum will build multi-faceted technicians who can master different components of the manufacturing system — computer technology, electronics and mechanics — to compete with those in foreign markets.

“Most of the time, you have to hire a separate person for each,” he said. “The goal of this program is to hire one person with those multiple skills.”

Students will also learn other skills such as automation, electronics and hydraulics, along with machinery assembly, testing, startup, troubleshooting, repair and upgrades.

The college received a $1.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor in October — the largest competitive grant award in its history — to serve individuals in fields displaced by manufacturing jobs that have gone overseas. The funds are part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant program, which funds community colleges in participating in this initiative.

Kenneth Wilson, the grant’s coordinator at Vance-Granville, said high-paying manufacturing jobs are in high demand.

“We know that there will be jobs for them once they graduate,” he said.

Williams said the program prepares people for careers such as industrial maintenance, advanced manufacturing and assembly production.

The college will partner with five local industry leaders — Bridgestone Bandag Tire Solutions of Oxford, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics of Norlina, Procter & Gamble Co. of Henderson, Altec of Creedmoor and Ardagh Glass of Henderson — to train students.

Wilson said he is confident in the curriculum because it was designed by these corporations.

“They told us what courses students should take and what they should learn,” he said. “The industries are telling us what they need, and we hope that we can fulfill this need and go on to fulfill others they may have.”

The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant is a four-year $2 billion initiative started in 2010 when President Barack Obama signed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.

The U.S. Department of Labor received its last installment of $450 million to administer to community colleges in April.

Wilson said he hopes to continue building the program with the community.

“We are looking for other industry partners so that our students will be first in line for these high-demand jobs when they graduate,” he said.

He said the grant also pays for full-time and part-time instructors to get the program off the ground.

Vance-Granville has received about $245,000 from the Duke Energy Foundation to upgrade a building and purchase equipment for a advanced manufacturing skills center, as well.

Williams said the college is enrolling students for the program already. Anyone interested can contact him at (252) 738-3256.

He said anyone can apply regardless of experience.

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.