When GF Linamar, a light metal foundry, was looking for a place to locate, Blue Ridge Community College provided all the right tools to help the company have a skilled pipeline to fill its workforce needs. To date, GF Linamar has hired 308 employees from Henderson County and the surrounding area. These jobs have an average wage of $50,545, which is above the county average.
In February 2016, the Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors awarded $550,000 to Blue Ridge Community College to purchase a high-pressure die casting cell that the college will use to train potential and incumbent workers for GF Linamar and employees of other companies in the region. No other community college in the state has this type of training equipment and capability.
Golden LEAF funding helped equip the new Southeastern Advanced Molding Technology Education Center (SAMTEC). The center was part of a larger project to help bring GF Linamar to Henderson County. GF Linamar produces high-pressure die cast products for the automobile industry.
“GF Linamar was looking at another location,” said Shanda Bedoian, Director of Corporate/ Customized Training at Blue Ridge Community College. “What brought them to our county was the collaboration of all the partners. The $550,000 from Golden LEAF was the catalyst that led to funding from other partners to build the high-pressure die cast cell. SAMTEC is an innovative start-of-the-art job training initiative developed to support the training needs of GF Linamar’s new high-pressure die cast facility; this training lab is the one and only in support of die casters in the United States.”
This equipment not only will support GF Linamar but will also provide training capabilities for other local industries.
“Currently, the southeast region of the United States is home to 25 die cast manufacturers and a wide variety of manufacturers using plastic molding processes,” said Bedoian. “SAMTEC provides quality workforce training in high-pressure die cast of aluminum parts as well as training in the production of plastic molding processes.”
Blue Ridge Community College’s SAMTEC lab located on its Henderson County Campus opened in May 2017 and has so far enabled training of more than 300 incumbent workers at GF Linamar and other area companies.
Blue Ridge Community College is using several methods to keep the pipeline of potential employees flowing. Bedoian attributes their success in recruiting students and supporting local industry to collaborations.
“We work closely with the industry, school systems, economic developers, chamber, as well as others to provide exactly what we need for our programs,” said Bedoian. “The college works with a high school and an adult apprenticeship program, where students are employed by the companies with on-the-job training as well as learning on campus. We also have career coaches who help recruit students to our programs.”
The college also has instructors with years of experience in the field and works the training programs in shifts so that students can work while earning stackable credentials, degrees, and diplomas. To date, 146 students have earned industry recognized credentials.
“SAMTEC uses the expertise of instructors from several of Blue Ridge Community College’s premier curriculum programs — mechatronics, computer integrated machining, welding, and engineering technology,” said Bedoian. “SAMTEC also offers training through continuing education, including both open enrollment short-term classes and customized training. Our programs are even provided in shifts to be able to work with the most students.”
Blue Ridge Community College is committed to helping its students gain the skills needed to be employed in quality jobs. Partnerships and collaboration are the key to making these training programs successful.