Educational and private industry leaders have amped up their collaborative efforts to try and build a more highly skilled workforce.Dozens of elected officials, manufacturers, educators and business leaders attended the Institute for Emerging Issues’ community forum June 10 at the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center.The forum’s focus is to create a manufacturing workforce while positioning the state and local communities to capitalize on a new and growing advanced manufacturing sector. The IEI, a program of N.C. State University in Raleigh, has hosted community forums for nearly three decades. Its goal is to help create solutions to overcome the state’s challenges in improving education, the economy, public health and the environment. For the past year, the institute has worked with policymakers to create opportunities for business and job creation in what it calls “next-generation manufacturing.”The institute also works with local governments, local offices of the N.C. Cooperative Extension, the N.C. Association of County Commissioners and the N.C. Community College System. The local forum was one about 25 scheduled throughout the state this summer. New face of manufacturingJohn Cox, president and CEO of the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce and Cabarrus Economic Development Corp., outlined some economic statistics about the area’s manufacturing sector. As a percentage of the national economy, manufacturing fell 13.3 percent from 2007 to 2013, he said. The county lost 6,295 manufacturing jobs from 2002 to 2012. It also lost 26 manufacturing companies. Total manufacturing wages declined by $46.2 million. But for the manufacturing jobs still here, wages grew from $785.71 per week to $903.77 per week over the 10-year period.“The loss of manufacturing jobs has been a dart to the heart of our economy, but we will survive it,” said Cox. “Everyone agreed to intensify and unify our collective efforts to create the 21st-century workforce that is prepared for the jobs of the future and capable to compete in a manufacturing setting against the best in the world.”RCCC poised to leadPaula Dibley, director of college relations, marketing and communications for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, said the college has regular meetings with industry leaders to discuss ways to build a stronger workforce.“Manufacturing is not dead. It’s just different now, and we need to be able to show our students that we have the equipment and facilities to properly train them,” said Dibley. “When we work with industry and determine exactly what they need, and we build a program around that, it’s successful. Those students graduate and get jobs.”RCCC President Carol Spalding says collaborating with industry and students presents multiple challenges. One is that it’s hard to predict what the job needs of the future will be. Still, she said, Cabarrus County is perfectly positioned to lead the area in advance manufacturing. “There are big plans for a lot of improved industries here … so we want to be a participant in that and work with the existing manufacturers that are here – and the new ones that may come – to make sure the workforce is in place, ready to be hired, as opposed to bringing someone in from out of state to fill those jobs,” said Spalding.RCCC recently got a $491,000 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation to train individuals in advanced machining through the college’s Computer-Integrated Machining Technology program. The college also wants to build an advanced manufacturing and technology center in the coming years, said Spalding. The estimated $12million project would include a building to house programs that teach advanced manufacturing, nanotechnology and mechatronics. The facility also could attract new manufacturers to the area.Public schools’ roleBarry Shepherd, superintendent of the Cabarrus County Schools, said the forum was a sign that the community is willing to determine and meet the needs of area employers. “It’s relevant because we are seeing a growing number of manufacturing jobs in North Carolina in the last few years, even during the recession,” Shepherd said. “But the skills … required … for those jobs to be built successfully are different from those that vanished when Pillowtex and others left. “It’s a complex equation, and if we’re going to continue to recruit strong business and industry to our community, then the schools have to be responsive in training workers to fit those jobs.” Lisa Conger, the Cabarrus County Schools’ career and technical education director, said speakers at the forum began to close a communication gap between business, industry and public and postsecondary schools.“We need to know what the industry needs; that communication has to be there,” Conger said. “Then they have to know our curriculum well enough to know what we can teach within our confines – the equipment and resources that we need – and it’s that teaming together that will make that happen. …”
Friday, Jun. 14, 2013
Cabarrus County educators, manufacturers look to build stronger workforce
Learn more • Visit iei.ncsu.edu or emergingissuescommons.org.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less