Instructors spend summer getting schooled

First Posted: 8/22/2014

Common wisdom holds that teachers have it made in the summer, with two or three months off with nothing to do but go to the beach and spend money.

The fact is that instructors do many different things in the summer. A few do spend a lot of time at the beach, but those instructors are in the minority. Some teachers, believe it or not, actually teach summer school in the summer. Others work on curriculum development, obtaining advanced degrees, or attend workshops and committee meetings. Some attend conferences and professional development activities. Some do volunteer work.

Occasionally, an instructor needs some type of training that is not available in the state, or will have the opportunity to attend a workshop or conference somewhere else in the nation. Robeson Community College administrators carefully balance the value of such opportunities with the cost of attending to make sure that taxpayers are getting a good return on investment in such cases.

With the addition of advanced technical equipment on campus from Golden LEAF and Advanced Manufacturing grants over the past few years, Robeson Community College’s entire Industrial Technologies Department needed to upgrade their skills.

Last year the department, which includes Harvey Strong, Michael Levinson, Matthew McKnight and Richard Hanchey, spent two weeks at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, where they trained on Siemens and Festo equipment for Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification.

Siemens makes the programmable logic controllers that control the automation of Festo’s assembly line equipment, both of which are in the Mechatronics lab at RCC.

RCC’s four Industrial Technology Program instructors studied alongside other community college instructors from North Carolina and Illinois under the tutelage of trainers who traveled from Siemens in Berlin. Each of the instructors earned the Certified Instructor Level 1 designation during the training.

McKnight and Levinson recently visited Berlin, where they spent two more weeks in advanced training at Siemens Technik Akademie. They earned Certified Instructor Level 2 designations.

“Siemens Level 2 training received by Mr. McKnight and Mr. Levinson will qualify RCC’s Industrial Technology Department to establish a Siemens Certification Center on campus,” said Deray Cole, director of the North Carolina Advance Manufacturing Alliance, which is based at Robeson Community College and paid for the training.

Levinson said the training directly benefits students at RCC.

“We are trained on the same type of equipment that we have in our labs. The more training we get from Siemens, the better we can train our students,” Levinson said.

“Once the labs are certified, students can obtain stackable credentials from Siemens,” McKnight said.

Students can get this certification in Robeson County as opposed to having to travel as far as Charlotte to get it.

How important is such credentialing? RCC officials attended a recent NCWorks meeting at Fayetteville Technical College where personnel from one Cumberland County industry located not far from Robeson County reported that they had more than 100 job openings they were having difficulty filling because of a lack of applicants with the necessary training to fill the positions.

A second employer indicated that, despite public perception, there are still well-paying manufacturing jobs in the region, and that some jobs that were lost because of the North American Free Trade Agreement are actually coming back. Most of these jobs are high-tech positions for which RCC is working hard to train potential employees.

For information about RCC’s Industrial Technology programs, contact Harvey Strong at or call 910-272-3472.