Critical Conversations with Scott T. Hamilton featuring Thomas Stith, President of the North Carolina Community College System 

Critical Conversations with Scott T. Hamilton featuring Thomas Stith, President of the North Carolina Community College System 

Recently, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton sat down with Thomas Stith, the President of the North Carolina Community College System via Zoom and filmed the fourth episode in a new video series called Critical Conversations. In this series, Scott talks with professionals about economic development issues affecting the state.

Stith provided his perspective on North Carolina’s workforce and talent development.

During the conversation, Stith described the passion for excellence he has seen at each of the campuses he has visited to date. He mentioned that his biggest challenge is the national decline in enrollment in community colleges since the pandemic. In June 2021, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $1.75 million to the North Carolina Community College System to support scholarships for students from rural counties to attend the state’s community colleges. This award included funding of up to $2,250 annually for curriculum students and up to $1,850 annually for workforce continuing education students. With other state, federal, and community college foundation funding, some community colleges are able to provide students with sufficient aid to attend for up to two years. Learn more about the Golden LEAF Scholarship for students to attend a North Carolina community college by clicking here.

While nationally and statewide, community college enrollment is down, one of the strategies the North Carolina Community College System is employing is a statewide marketing campaign. The system is pushing out information about the different programs the colleges offer such as short-term credentials, certificate programs, associate degrees, and even programs that conclude with a four-year degree in partnership with the state’s public and private universities. A huge need both nationally and statewide is for licensed truck drivers. At the August 2021 Board meeting, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded the College of the Albemarle $132,500 to expand their truck driving program that was started in fall 2020. These funds will allow the college to increase enrollment from 30 to approximately 72 students annually and address demand for approximately 758 CDL drivers in the seven-county region. Learn more about this award here.

With 20,000+ jobs announced this year, not including existing industry expansion, Stith said the community college is working hard to ready the talent in the state. Two of the programs he mentioned that help build out the specific needs of employers are the customized training program and the apprenticeship program. These programs offer employer-specific training and hands-on learning experiences that provide the skills employers need in workers. Check out how Golden LEAF supports workforce training programs by clicking here.

Currently, Stith said he is about halfway through visiting the 58 community colleges, since starting his position in January 2021. He is listening and learning from each of the community colleges and their communities as well as the business and industries in the area. He is also working with the four-year institutions in the state to provide seamless two-plus-two programs. Stith said the North Carolina Community College System will begin its strategic planning process in September 2021 and listening to the needs of the key partners and their communities is a big part of the process. In March, Golden LEAF joined EdNC and President Stith to tour several community colleges. Read more about that tour, here.

Critical Conversations is a new feature in the Golden LEAF newsletter every month. The next edition will be in our September 9th edition of LEAF Lines.

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