State Community Colleges Respond to Worker Training Demand

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Jonathan Massey Alamance County Farm Bureau member Jonathan Massey graduated form high school back in 1997 and immediately started classes at Alamance Community College. Juggling a third-shift job and classes during the day, Massey earned his associate degree in industrial maintenance technology, as well as certification for maintaining electronic controls.

Massey says education “opened doors” for him that might not have been open without it.

Now as an electronics technician with the Leggett Group—a North Carolina-based cigarette manufacturer for more than 100 years—Massey recollected how he would not have navigated an interview and testing without his community college training.

“I was able to get through it without any problem,” Massey says. “My training has gotten me promoted to some of the positions I’ve been in and provided a great basis for getting in the door.”

Massey’s story is one of thousands that could be touted by the North Carolina Community College System, a network of 58 campuses that conducted education classes for close to 850,000 students last year. While Massey went to Alamance Community College immediately after earning his high school diploma, system officials say the average age of their students is 34, reflecting the continuing education and retraining program that is one of the hallmarks of their offering.

System President Scott Ralls described how the need for what North Carolina community colleges provide has jumped tremendously as the state and nation recovers from economic recession.

“Over the past three years, our community colleges have enrolled more students than ever before and have stretched limited dollars to meet the demand,” Ralls says. “Yet, even under the strain of increased enrollment and reduced funding, we have continued to focus our efforts on student success and completion. The outcomes of these performance measures demonstrate the quality of education and training N.C. Community Colleges provide in a time when North Carolina needs it most.”

Individuals such as Massey aren’t the only ones who have benefited tremendously from the training the system provides. Late last year, Sampson Community College wrapped up training for Prestage Farms to upgrade the work force at its pork and poultry production facilities. A total of 120 employees gained more than 88 hours of training in study programs such as electrical safety and machine guarding certification.

“Prestage Farms is extremely fortunate to employ the majority of its work force in southeastern North Carolina, giving us access to the customized training offered by Sampson Community College,” says Bill Prestage, president and founder of Prestage Farms. “It is evident that the administration and staff at SCC places an emphasis on supplying the customized training necessary to support the businesses in their community.”

Ralls hopes Prestage Farms isn’t the only large or small operation that has taken advantage of what the system can do.

“Business and industry know that when they locate in North Carolina, there will be a community college nearby to provide a skilled work force and support a wide range of training needs over time,” Ralls says.

Get The Facts

  • Community colleges in North Carolina are within a 30-minute drive of students.
  • Close to 850,000 students, or 1 in 8 N.C. citizens 18 and up, enrolled in classes at one of the 58 community colleges during 2009-10.
  • The North Carolina Community College System is the third largest in the nation, based on the number of colleges.
  • Historically, N.C. has had the lowest tuition in the southeast Region — one of the lowest in the nation.
  • The average age of a community college student in North Carolina is 34 years old.
  • For more than 50 years, North Carolina has offered no-cost, company-specific training to eligible companies in our state. N.C. was one of the first in the nation to offer what has become an important economic development tool.
  • Training may be provided to companies that create eligible jobs, make significant investments in technology or take on critical productivity  enhancement efforts.
  • During fiscal year 2009-10, the Customized Training program provided customized job training to 16,346 individuals at 590 eligible companies. A total of $8,020,044 was expended at an average cost of $491 per trainee.

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