CCCC's Innovation Center - an educational resource
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SANFORD - Tucked away in the Lee County Industrial Park is an educational resource that fuels Central Carolina industry.
Central Carolina Community College's Innovation Center is a state-of-the-art training facility that helps to maximize industry success through exceptional workforce training.
Cathy Swindell, CCCC's Director of Industry Services, describes the relationship that exists between her office and industry in Chatham, Harnett, and Lee counties.
"As industry needs quickly emerge, we identify training opportunities in an effort to fill skill gaps or create new skill sets in the workforce. We promptly respond to the needs of industry and they keep us informed about changes and innovations that we need to prepare for," she said. "We work with industry to assess needs and develop appropriate training programs. From computer skills to process-related needs, we can train current or new employees to respond to it."
As of June 30, the center has served 28 unique organizations, 2,435 trainees, and provided 6,335 hours of specialized training to the Central Carolina area. Companies that have benefited from the services include 3M, Alotech, Atlantic Hydraulics, Belflex, Boon Edam, Caterpillar, Coty, and Olympic Steel, among others.
"The goals of any project undertaken by CCCC's Industry Services Office are to foster and support job growth, technology investment, and productivity enhancement," said Swindell.
These categories for defining types of projects was established by the North Carolina Community College System NCWorks Customized Training Program a number of years ago. The role of directors for customized training is to identify the need and develop a program of training to address it, including resources.
"In most cases, the program is at little or no cost to the participating industry and covers instructional and materials costs," said Swindell. "It's an economic development tool that assists organizations that qualify to locate here, grow, and increase their market presence. Innovation Center activities play into that effort by offering a place that critical hands-on training can occur."
CCCC's Innovation Center contains over 30,000 square feet of training space, including a simulated work environment, a fully-outfitted welding lab, an industry skills lab, a forklift operator training area, and additional classroom space. The center provides customized training in a variety of skill areas, including manufacturing fundamentals, problem solving, hydraulics and pneumatics, mechanical skills, basic electrical skills, and situational leadership.
"People often ask me if we have a catalogue of the training we offer and I just say, 'No, because we're going to figure out what you need and go from there,'" said Swindell. "We develop a training plan from the point of sitting down with industry representatives or individuals and deciding what their needs are. It is a very one-on-one kind of planning. We do offer examples of other projects but in the end, the project will be unique to their organization.
"Early on, we put an Industry Advisory Board comprised of members from all three counties in place to meet quarterly and discuss industry needs and concerns," said Swindell. "We ask them what they need from us and what they want us to offer. That feedback leads us to develop our programs. We are also a liaison to other departments within the college, such as curriculum and continuing education."
The feedback from industry also revealed that there are jobs available, but few qualified people to fill them, Swindell added.
"Baby boomers qualified in skilled trades such as manufacturing, welding, and maintenance are rapidly exiting the workforce due to retirement and there are few to replace them. We must reeducate teachers, school counselors, and the public in general about the benefits of entering these fields, benefits like higher level pay and the variety of positions that are available, not just on the assembly line," said Swindell.
As part of that education process, the Innovation Center will celebrate National Manufacturing Day on Friday, Oct. 2. The purpose of the event is to expand high school students' and the public's knowledge and perception about careers in manufacturing and the value of manufacturing to the economy. Representatives from local industry will be on hand to showcase their company products and help increase manufacturing awareness. AMP-Cherokee, Arauco, Caterpillar, Coty, Edelbrock, Floorazzo Tile, Frontier Spinning, GKN Driveline, Gould and Goodrich, Heatmaster, International Precast, Magneti Marelli Powertrain USA, Mertek Solutions, Olympic Steel, Red Wolf, Russell Manufacturing, and This End Up Furniture will be represented at the event.
Pamela Fincher, assistant to the Industry Services director, is coordinating the Manufacturing Day event. "We want to inspire the next generation of manufacturers by informing people about industries located in their communities and the types of products they make," said Fincher. "We also want to brief them on the kinds of jobs available in manufacturing and the education and skills needed to fill those jobs."
A trained workforce will also attract industry to the area, said Fincher. "It's a benefit to our mutual goals. Industry needs qualified people and our qualified people need jobs," said Fincher.
For more information on CCCC's Innovation Center and its training programs, contact Cathy Swindell at (919) 718-7212 or Pamela Fincher at (919) 718-7490. Information is also available on the website at www.cccc.edu/industryservices, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/innovationlee.
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