German company to put training center at CPCC

A German company’s education organization and officials at Central Piedmont Community College announced an agreement Wednesday that will bring the company’s North American training center to the college’s Central Campus in Charlotte.

Festo Didactic SE, based in Denkendorf, Germany, said the Festo-CPCC Learning Center of Excellence will be developed in stages, with the first part operating by early next year.

CPCC President Tony Zeiss, saying his school has “big ambitions for this center,” said the new program will help close what he described as an “ongoing mid-skills training gap that hinders U.S. advanced manufacturing.”

While plans are still being worked out, officials of both Festo Didactic, the educational arm of Festo AG, and CPCC said the center – the company’s first in the United States – will provide high-level training for both students and faculty members. The goal is to provide a level of education that will open the door for students to jobs in high-paying technology and manufacturing companies.

CPCC officials said they also hope the center will become a consulting service for companies across the United States and a source of outreach activities such as seminars and conferences for middle school and high school students.

“It will be like a showroom” for high-tech industrial education, said Richard Zollinger, vice president for learning and workforce development at CPCC.

Zollinger said the Festo-CPCC Learning Center for Excellence will be part of a new industrial education facility to be built somewhere on the Central Campus. Funds will come from a $200 million bond referendum approved by voters last November. No cost has been set for the facility.

He said it is too early to tell how many students might be involved in the program.

Festo AG, the parent company of Festo Didactic, supplies pneumatic and electrical automation technology ideas to more than 200 businesses in 176 countries. It does not have manufacturing facilities in the Charlotte region.

“We intend for our new joint venture to become the gold standard for technical education and training in the United States and North America,” Festo Didactic Managing Director Daniel Boese said.

More than two years ago, CPCC signed an agreement with IHK Karlsruhe, a German business organization, to offer programs that allow students to be certified in Germany’s top industries.

CPCC officials say there are about 200 German companies in the Charlotte area, providing about 15,000 jobs.