Hickory Daily Record
Posted: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 6:45 pm
HICKORY – Catawba Valley Community College will use a $750,000 grant to improve its advanced manufacturing education programs and help cultivate a skilled workforce in the county.
The Golden LEAF Foundation, which works with local governments and nonprofits to improve economies in the state, awarded the grant to Catawba County earlier this year.
The county was invited by the foundation to apply for the grant in 2014, Crystal Glenn said, who is the executive director of CVCC’s Workforce Development Innovation Center. County leaders including CVCC’s president, Catawba’s economic development corporation and local school district leaders worked together to create the grant application and decide what it would include.
The goal was to create opportunities to train a younger workforce for advanced manufacturing jobs and close a skills gap, Glenn said. As well, the grant looked to increase the number of students participating in work opportunities like internships, job shadowing and apprenticeships.
The specialized equipment needed to train a new workforce carries with it a hefty price tag and will use up the majority of the grant money. Glenn said it will be a needed upgrade for the community college.
“It is invaluable,” Glenn said. “The hardest thing for the community college to do is get equipment.”
Budgetary constraints have kept CVCC from updating equipment in the past, Glenn said.
“It’s kind of hard to train somebody on a piece of equipment from 1962 to go out and work in industry in 2015,” Glenn said. “With the grain of the workforce and with baby boomers starting to retire, the intent of this equipment is to really accelerate the rate at which we can train millennials coming out of high school.
“If we can accelerate that and train them more quickly and get them up to speed on this equipment more quickly, then they’ll be able to replace the baby boomers,” Glenn said.
A skilled workforce will hopefully draw more businesses to the Catawba area.
“Advanced manufacturing, especially in the growing areas of composites and metallurgy, is critical in sustaining and growing our region’s economy,” Julie Pruett said, who is the director of business recruitment with the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation, in a press release. “CVCC’s ability to provide high-skilled employees to advanced manufacturers provides us with a competitive advantage when we are working with existing and new companies who are considering our community for a future expansion or new location.”