Siemens, the global energy firm with a hub in southwest Charlotte, is giving $32 million worth of software to Central Piedmont Community College to prepare students for advanced manufacturing careers.
Company officials joined Gov. Pat McCrory at the plant Tuesday to announce Siemens is giving the school its product lifecycle management software, used by thousands of companies worldwide to digitize, analyze and manage data associated with bringing a product to market.
Company officials said more than 120 businesses in North Carolina use the Siemens PLM software, including Norfolk Southern Corp. and Hendrick Motorsports. Siemens officials said training CPCC students to use it will benefit industry as well as the students.
“Our customers need to hire people who can hit the ground running on Day 1,” said Bill Boswell, a senior director with Siemens PLM Software.
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The gift will allow CPCC to give 40 degree-seeking students per year training on the software. It will also be used to help 18 students participating in a Siemens apprenticeship program, as well as working professionals seeking CPCC coursework to boost their job skills.
“Some 70,000 or 80,000 companies are seeking workers trained in this, so we are so very, very grateful,” CPCC President Tony Zeiss told company officials. “It’s a marvelous contribution.”
McCrory said the effort will help combat a “skills gap” in which companies, especially advanced manufacturing firms such as Siemens, lack qualified applicants for job openings.
A 2013 report from America’s Edge, a Washington, D.C., group that promotes education, warned that math-, science-, engineering- and technology-related jobs are growing quickly, but 91 percent of those jobs will require some level of college education by 2018. Meanwhile, only 38 percent of working-age adults in the state hold an associate or higher degree.
“We know those (science, math, engineering and technology) jobs are available,” Mecklenburg commissioners Chairman Trevor Fuller said. “We don’t have people who have the skills to do those jobs.”
Siemens, a German conglomerate, makes generators and steam turbines for energy firms at its 1,600-worker Charlotte plant on Westinghouse Boulevard. Its apprenticeship program with CPCC has won national and international attention.
Eric Spiegel, CEO of Siemens’ U.S. subsidiary, said such partnerships can help erase the skills gap and spur a rebirth of manufacturing in the United States.
The gift will benefit students such as David Whalen, a CPCC student and apprentice at Siemens. He said he initially didn’t think he wanted to work in manufacturing.
“I always thought manufacturing was just standing on a conveyor belt putting together part after part, and nobody wants to do that with their life,” he said.
But he said after seeing the cost of four years of college, he signed up for the apprenticeship program. He hasn’t regretted it.
“I fell in love with it, the community of people, the hands-on training,” he said. “It’s probably the best decision I’ve made in my entire life.”