Critical Conversations with Scott T. Hamilton featuring Dr. Mark Poarch, President of the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents

Critical Conversations with Scott T. Hamilton featuring Dr. Mark Poarch, President of the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents

Recently, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton sat down with Dr. Mark Poarch, President of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute and President of the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents, via Zoom and filmed the sixth episode in a video series called Critical Conversations. In this series, Scott talks with professionals about economic development issues affecting the state.

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

The North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents fosters and promotes the growth, progress, and general welfare of North Carolina’s 58 Community Colleges through the unified efforts of the presidents. The group, made up of all community college presidents in the state, meets quarterly to discuss issues impacting community colleges and to develop a legislative agenda.

During the conversation, Poarch addressed the challenge of helping employers find and provide training to an available workforce. He mentioned that the connection between business and industry partners and community colleges has never been stronger. Colleges are developing customized programming in response to the specific workforce challenges. Another area of importance is the pipeline to the workforce. Colleges are working with the Career and College Promise program, where high school students can earn credits for free while in high school, to build the pathway to a career either after high school graduation or continuing at the community college. Poarch also noted that there is an increased attention with adult learners to help them reengage in postsecondary education.

Poarch noted that the community colleges have had an influx of funding to help people get back to work in high demand and high wage careers. The Golden LEAF Scholarship Program to attend community colleges provides eligible rural students with up to $2,250 per school year, including summer term, is available for curriculum students and up to $1,850 per year for students enrolling in occupational programs. Poarch noted that many colleges are using the federal funds to take care of student debts, which helps students return to finish degrees. Longleaf Commitment Grant provided the 2020-2021 seniors with scholarship funding for attending a North Carolina community college for up to two years. Longleaf Complete Grant for students who may be halfway toward degree completion to help incentivize students to come back and complete their degree. Contact your local community college for more information on the Longleaf Complete Grant. The GEER Fund has been used for short-term workforce training programs to get people immediately into the workforce.

Poarch noted that business and industry partners are looking for mid- to high-skill level workers with training in areas such as engineering, robotics, and information technology. 

Lastly, Poarch noted that in order to continue to be the best community college system in the country, community colleges need to recruit and retain the best staff and keep up with the latest technology to best serve business and industry and its students. Partners like the Golden LEAF Foundation provide funding to meet the needs of strategies that will result in high demand, quality jobs.

Critical Conversations is a feature in the Golden LEAF newsletter every month. The next edition will be in our November 11th edition of LEAF Lines.

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