MONROE — North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest visited South Piedmont Community College on Monday to learn more about the college’s vital role in preparing men and women for the good, but highly skilled, manufacturing jobs available right now in our area.
The lieutenant governor began his visit with a tour of South Piedmont’s new Center for Technology and Health Education, which houses the college’s advanced manufacturing and industrial maintenance programs.
Forest then led a panel discussion with local education and industry leaders, including Rick Little, technical services director for Scott Safety; Bill Moody and Tony Alexander with Vanguard Pai Lung; Chris Platé, executive director of Monroe-Union County Economic Development; Dr. John Jones, assistant superintendent of instructional programs for Union County Public Schools (UCPS); Matt Nelson, CEO of Turbomeca Manufacturing, and Dr. Stan Sidor, president of South Piedmont Community College.
Among those in attendance and asking questions of the panel during the lively discussion were representatives from the local legislative delegation, the Union County Board of Education, Union County Board of Commissioners and the Union County Chamber of Commerce as well as business and economic development leaders and SPCC trustees and foundation board members.
Much of the discussion focused on answering questions about where the next generation of skilled manufacturing professionals will come from and if we are doing enough—through both public and private efforts — to prepare students for these jobs that pay well and will be in high demand for the foreseeable future. In many cases, the panel agreed, it’s battling misconceptions about what modern manufacturing is.
“It’s about fundamentally changing the way we think,” Forest said. “If one of the main goals of education is to prepare young people for jobs in the future, they need to know that these jobs exist. Union County is doing a great job of that.”
Sidor said that what’s working well is engaging employers to help with training so that students learn entry-level requirements for precision machining. “Addressing both the short-term and long-term employment needs of local manufacturers, the collaborating partners are creating a deeper and broader labor pool than what exists,” said Sidor after the event.
Earlier this year South Piedmont Community College was awarded a $345,000 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation. The Machining Credential to College Credit & Apprenticeship Project is helping unemployed and underemployed adults as well as graduating high school seniors from UCPS Central Academy of Technology and Arts (CATA) enter high-skill, high-wage careers in advanced manufacturing.
“The project is part of a broad college strategy in collaboration with Union County Public Schools and the Union County Advanced Manufacturing Consortium to create journeyman machining apprenticeship and internships programs,” said Sidor. “Combining training and on-site work experience prepares our people to enter jobs that they can confidently and competently perform.”