LUMBERTON — When it comes to being a leader in educational efforts to train workers for meeting the job needs of present-day manufacturers, Robeson Community College tops the list, according to the president of the N.C. Community College System.
“Robeson Community College is the hub for training in advanced manufacturing,” R. Scott Ralls said. “It’s at the heart of where things are happening. You can’t be anywhere better than in Robeson County.”
Ralls on Monday got a first-hand look at RCC’s advanced manufacturing labs and was the keynote speaker at the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Business After Hours social held in the college’s Workforce Development building.
Ralls was in Lumberton as part of Manufacturing Awareness Week, which is being recognized from April 8 to April 12 on the campuses of the 10 community colleges that make up The North Carolina Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, as well as 35 other state community colleges. The week is being celebrated to make people across the state aware that manufacturing, especially advanced high-tech manufacturing, is a field that is growing in North Carolina and needs workers trained in the high-tech skills the industry requires.
Ralls said that over the next several years 2.5 million to 5 million new manufacturing jobs may be created in the United States.
“The question is: Will we reach out and seize this opportunity,” Ralls said. “I think we will because that is the American spirit.”
Ralls praised RCC’s efforts to provide local workers with the skills they need to obtain high-tech jobs in manufacturing.
“We need to get these skills now,” he said. “RCC has not only moved this community forward, but what’s important is how much it has helped all the other colleges in the system move forward.”
Ralls pointed to RCC’s leadership in administering $18.8 million in federal money that was awarded in 2011 to RCC and nine other community colleges to share in providing job training programs and services to those wishing to return to the workforce. RCC received the lion’s share of that grant.
According to Ralls, the $18.8 million grant is the largest received by the state’s community college system since it was established 50 years ago.
As the lead institution, RCC is administering the grant that was awarded to the community colleges as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training Program — an initiative that helps develop instructional programs that meet specific industry needs, strengthens technical learning, and allows students and workers access to free learning materials online.
Much of the money has been used by RCC to provide manufacturing labs with the most current equipment.
“We prepare our students for today’s sophisticated workforce,” said William Locklear, RCC’s assistant vice president of technology and public service. “We teach them the higher skills they need to make them more marketable.”
Harvey Strong, who chairs RCC’s technology departments, said there are between 150 and 200 students at any time enrolled in the college’s technology and manufacturing programs.
“The big thing is that a lot of our students go on to get jobs with local industries,” Strong said.
Ralls said that he was “impressed” with the number of junior and senior high school students who came to RCC on Monday to tour the college’s advanced manufacturing labs.
“Something they saw here today may trigger what kind of work they will do in the future,” he said.
Today the week’s celebration of manufacturing continues with tours of the advanced manufacturing labs and the college’s BioAg center’s GreenZone. Local industry representatives will be on campus to supply information about their particular companies and job needs and Strong will speak to members of the local Rotary Club.
A representative of the Carolina Training Associates, of Charlotte, will demonstrate the use of programmable logic controllers in manufacturing, and the Public Schools of Robeson County Parents Froup will meet on campus today at 5 p.m.
On Wednesday, there will be a bio-fuel car on exhibit from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The local Kiwanis organization will meet on campus for lunch. Strong will be the keynote speaker.
Also on Wednesday, there will be a demonstration of computer-aided design programs in the advanced manufacturing lab. The presentation will be made by Sallye Coyle from www.shopbottools.com in Durham.
Thursday at 12:30 p.m. there will be a presentation entitled “Steps to Starting Your Own Business” by Bob Moore, director of the Robeson Community College Small Business Center.
The final event will be the Early College High Schools’ Career and Technical Education National Technical Honor Society banquet. The banquet will be held Thursday night at Lumberton Hi gh School.
For information about any of the week’s events, visit http://advancedmanufacturingalliance.org/news-updates/ rcc -manufacturing-week. Information is also available by contacting Angela Sumner at 910-272-3678 or email@example.com, or Emily Jones at 910-272-3475 or firstname.lastname@example.org.