According to the EDPNC, North Carolina has the largest advanced manufacturing workforce in the southeastern United States. Advanced manufacturing jobs require advanced skills with hands-on training. North Carolina community colleges partner with these industries to provide workers with the skills needed to fill these quality jobs.
In November and December 2021, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton visited community colleges serving Wayne, Rowan, Cabarrus, Alamance, and Guilford counties with state-of-the-art training programs that focus on careers in advanced manufacturing.
At Wayne Community College, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $500,000 to support the Advanced Manufacturing Center through the Community-Based Grants Initiative in 2016. Golden LEAF funding helped Wayne Community College expand its welding program. At the time, it was estimated that there was a demand for approximately 250 welders over the next five years. Since adding the welding booths, Wayne Community College has enrolled 201 students in welding programs. The program has served 109 continuing education students. These students have earned a combined 76 diplomas or degrees and 381 credentials. Of the 201 students, 52 students are currently employed as welders in the area.
The Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $559,678.29 to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to support the college’s Advanced Technology Center’s mechatronics program. The 2017 Community-Based Grants Initiative funding helped expand Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s engineering technology program. The expansion included the development of a mechatronics program and updating equipment in the welding program to meet current industry standards and increasing student demand. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College also hosts a registered apprenticeship program for mechatronics technicians with work-based placements available at 12 area companies. The program has resulted in students receiving 482 certificates, 25 diplomas, and 22 associate degrees in welding.
At Alamance Community College, the Golden LEAF Board awarded $197,391.37 in 2019 through the Open Grants Program to purchase specialized advanced manufacturing equipment that will allow Alamance Community College (ACC) to offer hands-on machining training that mimics workplace conditions. In new and existing courses, which were requested by local employers, students will be taught the operation, troubleshooting, programming, and other principles of computer-integrated machining processes. A survey of ten major manufacturing businesses with machining-related processes in Alamance County indicated the need to fill approximately 200 computer-integrated machining positions in the next three to five years. ACC projects that 200 students will receive training over that period, with 180 students receiving a certificate, diploma, or degree. So far, the program has had one full cohort with 18 students earning 3rd party credentials.
The Golden LEAF Board awarded $650,000 through the Community-Based Grants Initiative in 2017 to Guilford Technical Community College to expand the college’s welding and machining programs. Funding supported the purchase of additional welding booths, cutting stations, and industrial robotic welders. Guilford Technical Community College was renovating a space for an Advanced Manufacturing Center to help expand its programs due to industry demand. So far, the program has had a cohort of 18 students earn 31 NIMS credentials, 113 students participate in work-based learning, and 113 students employed in advanced manufacturing.
North Carolina’s community colleges are working to help fill the skills gaps and labor shortage by providing the training needed to help students find quality job opportunities available in their communities.