In 2020, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $1 million through the Community-Based Grants Initiative to Sampson Community College to support the Sampson Trades Center.
This project included the construction of a new building on the campus of Sampson Community College to expand vocational training for career and technical education (CTE) classes for high school students and for traditional students for high-demand jobs in electrical, masonry trades, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). The space is also used for short-term, customized worker training for existing and new businesses.
“We built the Trades Center to be able to adapt to the ever growing needs of business and industry,” said Dr. Bill Starling, President of Sampson Community College. “While many communities have advanced manufacturing as their largest employers, agriculture is our biggest industry. Our county has $1.35 billion in agriculture production. We work with a variety of agricultural businesses that need these trades to operate.”
According to the Sampson County Economic Development Commission, Sampson County is one of the State’s most diverse agricultural counties and, more often than not, the leading producer of many of the State’s commodities.
The Sampson Trades Center has been completed and classes have been taught at the new facility for almost a year.
Golden LEAF measures the success of a program by tracking its outcomes. The outcomes for this program include high school students completing a CTE pathway, community college students completing a certificate or degree, students earning industry credentials, and workers completing short-term customized training.
As of the March 2023 report to Golden LEAF, 20 students had completed at least one curriculum program; 14 students had completed a continuing education course or program; and 14 students had earned at least one industry/third party certification, license, or another credential.
With only about eight months of programming, the Sampson Trade Center is seeing early success. Key to the long-term success of these programs will be that the 16 week classes offer stackable credentials.
“We have created micro credentials that apply to different skill sets so we can help students get certifications and credentials as they work towards a degree,” said Barney Grady, Division Chair of Construction, Industrial, Agricultural, Public Service & Information Technologies at Sampson Community College. “Many of our students just want the skills they need to get to work at a good paying job. They can come in or out of the program to add to their previous credentials.”
Sampson Community College’s Division Chair has worked on creating strong relationships with local business and industry.
“We have advisory boards for all of our programs,” said Starling. “What is also important is the relationships Barney (Grady) has built over the years with the individual industries in the area. We only want to focus on the needs or future needs of our businesses. If it isn’t important to our industries, we are not going to offer those programs.”
The Training Center also offers customized training for area industries.
“We are currently providing customized training for Butterball,” said Starling. “We are also seeing many workers registering for continuing education from Hog Slat, Smithfield Foods, Precision Tools and other smaller businesses.”
The college is also working hard to better serve its Hispanic population.
“We hired a bilingual Construction Trades department chair to assist with recruitment of Spanish speaking students,” said Starling. “About 30 percent of our students are Hispanic. We have heard from our students that they feel accepted and at home attending classes here. It is also important to our students that we are offering credentials that are recognized and valued by industry.”
Starling said the success of the college really goes to his faculty and staff.
“I have been at Sampson Community College a long time,” said Starling. “At no time have we ever had the breadth and depth of knowledge at our college that we have now. We have been successful in relaying to our students that we are truly investing in their future.”
The trades programs are growing, according to Lisa Turlington, Dean of Advancement at Sampson Community College.
“We have finished out the spring semester with eight students receiving degrees in HVAC, nine students with degrees in electrical, and nine students with degrees in construction management,” said Turlington. “With our new facility, enrollment is really picking up.”
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