LUMBERTON — Amazing. Great. Impressive.
These were the words uttered repeatedly by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson as he got a first-hand look Friday afternoon at some of the labs available at Robeson Community College to train students for jobs in health-related fields and advanced manufacturing.
“I’ve toured all eight of the community colleges in my district, and you have some of the most advanced equipment and programs I’ve seen,” he said as he was updated on the college’s nursing and advanced manufacturing programs by RCC staff. “I’m impressed. Your nursing and manufacturing labs are state of the art. They give students the hands-on training they need to get jobs when they graduate.”
Hudson, a Republican from Concord, represents the 8th Congressional District, which spans from Charlotte to Robeson County. The meeting with about 25 college, community and business leaders at RCC ended a three-day tour throughout the district that included earlier stops Friday at the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport and the CSX Hamlet train terminal.
“Transportation is important to growth and job creation,” Hudson said. “That’s what I’ve been emphasizing the past few days.”
Hudson said that his priorities as a congressional representative are “jobs, jobs, jobs,” and that North Carolina’s community colleges are vital to making that happen in Robeson and other rural counties across the state.
“This is where it’s at,” Hudson said. “This is where students can get the hands-on experience they need to learn the skills needed by industries today.”
Hudson said that it is common when he speaks with business and industrial leaders about recruitment and job creation to be told that the biggest obstacle to overcome is the lack of individuals having the skills to perform the jobs employers need today.
“There are 4 million jobs out there not filled because no one has the training and skills to do the work,” Hudson said.
As an example, Hudson noted that major industries now use robots to produce their products.
“You need to know megatronics and advanced manufacturing today,” he said. “When one of these robots breaks down you have to have someone highly skilled to repair it. You can’t just use a hammer to fix the problem anymore.”
Although it’s important to recruit new major industries to the the county and region, Hudson said that it is also important to provide a well-trained and skilled workforce that meets the needs of those businesses and industries already doing business in the area.
“Lets make sure the industries already here continue to be successful,” Hudson told those community leaders who joined his brief tour of the RCC facilities. “This is our bread and butter.”
Hudson said that Congress is is trying to do its part to make it easier for individuals to have access to job training programs that will teach them the skills necessary to get to work.
“We are consolidating job training programs and putting more dollars on the ground so that students have easier access to the training they need,” he said.
Pamela Hilbert, president of RCC, noted that Hudson’s experience as a former member of a North Carolina community college board of trustees sharpens his understanding of the needs of community colleges as they move forward to prepare students for jobs.
“We appreciate that he cares enough to have visited all eight colleges in his district,” she said. “Having served on a (trustee) board, he has an understanding of state and federal programs.”