Surry County NewsRead about new business, events and news that effects life and commerce in the western Piedmont Triad.
When the potential impact of Covid-19 on his company became evident this past spring, Renfro President and CEO Stan Jewell faced the prospect of furloughing employees and idling machinery in Alabama, Tennessee and in the Triad.
The world’s largest sock maker of some of the most recognizable brands, shuttering of retail stores and a sudden halt of consumer activity forced the Mount Airy-based company into making personal protection equipment as demand fell by 80% practically overnight. With plenty of fabric on hand, high-capacity machinery capacity and design expertise available, Renfro’s pivot to making its Nightingale brand face mask likely preserved hundreds of jobs and created opportunities for hundreds more to find temporary work.
The pivot to making face masks was among the subjects discussed during Triad Business Journal’s Manufacturing in the Covid-19 Age private roundtable, which in addition to Jewell included Egger Wood Products Director of Corporate Training Michael Holmes and LLFlex CEO Victor Dixon. Coverage of that roundtable will be featured in this week’s print edition and published online.
Designed in conjunction with Wake Forest Baptists Health, Renfro quickly retooled to make as many as 1 million Nightingale face masks per week. That turned out to be the easy part. The challenge was finding, on short notice, upwards of 550 temporary workers to assemble and package the masks in seven locations.
Workers furloughed by other companies weren’t interested, Jewell said, because they were earning more with enhanced unemployment than they would assembling face masks. So a new market was targeted — students who aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits. Renfro partnered with its placement agencies and others to approach local school systems and colleges to find labor.
“Our thought was there are a lot of people who are 16 to 20 years old who are not able to draw unemployment benefits, and maybe even a lot of them were getting ready to look for summertime work and internships,” Jewell said. “Those opportunities weren’t going to be readily available, so why don’t we try and capture some of these people that were soon to be in the market to earn some cash anyway.”
Not a profit center
The project went on from April through June before Renfro began scaling back mask production as it core business gradually returned in advance of back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons. Because the mask project kept all employees on the job and machinery running, the return to making socks was seamless.
Jewell said Renfro never intended to profit off the sudden need for PPE, but rather break even on the project. The pricing of the masks allowed the company to donate about 25% of its production in areas where resources didn’t meet need. The company also helped execute Winston-Salem’s “Mask the City,” initiative, for which it provided 390,000 units practically at cost.
The washable, reusable masks are sold online to individuals in two-packs for $15. A pack of 24 costs $180 and a case of 96 is priced at $648, a discount of 75 cents per mask.
The primary goal was to keep the lights on and the machines running. Although requiring considerable ingenuity and hundreds of employee hours, Jewell characterized the mask pivot as relatively easy.
“There was a pretty simple conversion to make the masks, but figuring out a design that does not require cut-and-sew was a challenge because there’s not a lot of cut-and-sew of any scale in this country anymore,” Jewell said. “We tried to figure out a design that did not require sewing.”
The solution was a design featuring a strap threaded through a channel at the top and bottom of the mask. To simplify assembly, Renfro enlisted the help of metal fabricator Tampco in Elkin to design and create a tool to help thread the straps quickly.
“They they made hundreds of these devices so that we could ramp up quickly,” Jewell said.
Now that its core business has rebounded, Jewell said Renfro is leaving the mass production of masks for companies better equipped to produce mass quantities until the need subsides. Renfro hasn’t exited the PPE business completely, still producing some 100,000 units per month at one location with permanent staff only. With the intellectual property and experience in hand, Jewell said Renfro has the ability to ramp up mask production if necessary.
For now, its Nightingale production is targeting customization for institutional clients such as hospital systems and even colleges and universities. Among its customers are UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest University and Davidson College.
An ancillary benefit from the face mask experience, Jewell said, was recognizing the company’s ability to react quickly to changing market demands.
“I think what we really learned is that we’re much more agile than we even thought, and we can be very innovative and very agile,” Jewell said. “Maybe we apply that to the sock market, but also how do we reconfigure our supply chain so that we can be much more responsive to changing needs in the marketplace? I think that’s probably more applicable and better long-erm learning to apply, rather than to chase a lot of big markets. How do we use those skill sets that we just figured out that we’re really good at and apply them in new ways?”
As the community of Dobson struggled with the impact of COVID-19 on local schools, a local Wayne Farms employee saw an opportunity to intervene with a $10,000-plus fundraising effort focused on remote learning and digital home education.
The fundraising effort began with Candace Murphy’s experiences in the community. Her duties as a nurse and occupational health specialist with the Wayne Farms Dobson facility put her on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, and that vantage gave her a unique perspective on the needs of local students. As social distancing policies were implemented and parent concerns grew, local officials tasked with making sure home-educated students received adequate instruction realized many families didn’t have access to the necessary technology.
That’s when Murphy and the Wayne Farms workforce stepped in.
“As the area’s largest employer and a long-time community partner, Wayne Farms has a history of supporting local causes and programs,” the company said in a recently statement. “So when Murphy approached Dobson Complex management with the idea of a fundraiser to provide computer technology to facilitate remote learning for Surry County students, the idea took wings and employees across the local complex were on board.
“Over the course of the next few days, Murphy’s contagious enthusiasm swept through the ranks. The result—$10,000 in cash and an entire pickup truck load of writing materials, earbuds and tech accessories that will be needed by Surry County students requiring virtual learning as COVID-19 continues to run its course.”
Murphy recently joined with Wayne Farms representatives and local officials to present the cash and equipment donations. “We’re so glad to be able to help our local schools—we live and work here too, so making sure our students are equipped and ready to learn is a priority for everyone,” Murphy said.
Surry Communications was recognized as part of North Carolina’s Rural Broadband Week, an honor put into place via a declaration from Gov. Roy Cooper in early August.
Broadband, the high-bandwidth transmission that enables access to high-speed internet, has been critical to North Carolinians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything from healthcare to remote learning has moved online in recent months to limit person-to-person interaction.
Cooper’s Aug. 8 proclamation stated that broadband allows its users more affordable and efficient access to education, healthcare, public safety, commerce and government. The proclamation also states that those without broadband face a digital divide that hinders them from accessing necessary resources.
The goal of Rural Broadband Week, held Aug. 17-21, is to highlight the accomplishments of the broadband providers across the state that work tirelessly to provide high-speed internet access to its members.
Surry Communications, one of seven broadband membership cooperatives in CarolinaLink, N.C.’s Broadband Cooperative Coalition, serves the communities of Elkin, Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain and Lexington.
In addition to Surry, the seven cooperative members include: ATMC (Atlantic Telephone Membership Cooperative), Randolph Communications, Riverstreet Networks, Skyline/Skybest, Star Communications and Yadtel Telecommunications.
These cooperatives provide advanced technology services to many of the state’s most rural areas. Coalition members serve more than 150,000 rural homes and businesses in this region and are committed to expanding rural broadband to unserved and underserved communities throughout the state.
“We are proud of our coalition members and their efforts to continue the expansion of broadband to rural North Carolinians,” commented Dwight Allen, executive vice president of CarolinaLink. “Access to high-speed internet is vital for education, healthcare and business and with fiber optic technology our cooperatives are paving the way for the future of rural North Carolina.”
Over the past year, CarolinaLink members received $35.3 million dollars in state and federal grant funds and will invest an additional $17.4 million in matching funds for rural broadband expansion projects.
Through grant funds provided by the NC GREAT Grant Program and the USDA’s ReConnect and Community Connect Programs, more than 15,000 North Carolina homes and businesses will soon have access to fiber optic high-speed internet. CarolinaLink members also self-fund more than $30 million in rural broadband projects annually.
CarolinaLink members serve residents and businesses in thirty counties throughout the state and employee more than 1,000 North Carolinians. In addition, five of the seven coalition members are Gig-Certified through the Rural Broadband Association. Four of the cooperatives are also nationally recognized as Smart Rural Community Providers, which highlight member projects that make rural communities vibrant places to live and do business through the implementation of innovative broadband-enabled solutions.
Four Triad community colleges have earned a share of more than $900,000 in grants from Duke Energy to support apprenticeship programs at eight schools across the state.
The grants fulfill the company’s 2017 commitment to fund $5 million in apprenticeship programs at North Carolina community colleges. Sharing $399,500 are:
- Alamance Community College ($179,000);
- Davidson County Community College ($125,000);
- Forsyth Tech Community College ($50,000);
- Surry Community College ($45,500).
The funds will help support their programs that partner the schools with businesses to develop the workforce of tomorrow.
“We are so grateful for Duke Energy’s support of our apprenticeship programs,” said Peter Hans, president of the N.C. Community College System. “Students in the programs receive hands-on learning while earning a paycheck and gaining specialized skills. Apprenticeships have increased rapidly at community colleges because employers recognize their value in building the workforce of the future.”
Since 2004, Duke Energy has provided $45 million in funding to North Carolina community colleges.
One of the most exciting events in a young person’s life is getting that first job offer. Recently, several area youth experienced that thrill when the Next Generation Career Academy hosted its third job signing event.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, interns, employers, and special guests participated virtually. Twelve recent graduates signed commitments to full or part-time employment with seven local businesses that participated in the Next Generation Career Academy’s internship program.
Due to COVID-19, this year was unlike any other year with regard to the second half of the school year and student internships. The academy’s internship program officially ended March 14 due to COVID-19, and at that time there were 38 interns in positions. Seventeen students were able to continue working for their employers. The following recent graduates and their employers were recognized:
• Carley Johnson – Chatham Nursing and Rehab. Her mentor was Brooke Johnson, social services director. Carley accepted a certified nursing assistant (CNA) position with Chatham Nursing and Rehab. She is a graduate of North Surry High School and will attend Surry Community College to study nursing.
• Michaela Stone – Chatham Nursing and Rehab. Her mentor was Brooke Johnson, social services director. Michaela recently graduated from North Surry High School and will attend Catawba College in the fall to study nursing. Michaela accepted a CNA position with Chatham Nursing and Rehab.
• Dylan Toney – Hardy Brothers. His mentor was Justin Lewis, maintenance director. Dylan accepted a trailer service technician position with Hardy Brothers. He is a Surry Central High School graduate and will attend Forsyth Tech in the fall to study diesel and heavy equipment technology.
• Branigan Raasch – JR Lynch and Sons. His mentor was Mark Lynch, vice president. Branigan accepted a laborer and welder position with JR Lynch and Sons. He is an East Surry High School graduate and will attend Surry Community College in the fall to study construction management.
• Lacey Caviness – Northern Regional Hospital. Her mentor was Patty Creed, director of critical care. Lacey graduated from Surry Central High School and will attend Surry Community College in the fall. She worked in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and plans to transfer to Appalachian State University to become a physician’s assistant. Lacey accepted a CNA position with Northern Regional Hospital.
• Kiersten Lester – Northern Regional Hospital. Her mentor was Jenny Triplett, director of skilled nursing. Kiersten accepted a CNA position with Northern Regional Hospital. She worked in the Skilled Nursing Unit and is a graduate of East Surry High School. She will continue her education at Surry Community College to become a nurse.
• Katelyn Ward – Northern Regional Hospital. Her mentor was Liz Persaud, director of the Birthing Center. Katelyn is a graduate of East Surry High School. She worked on the Obstetrics Floor and will continue her education at Surry Community College to study nursing. She accepted a CNA position with Northern Regional Hospital.
• Jonathan Lara – Smith-Rowe, LLC. His mentors were Jody Phillips, vice president, and Richard Smith, project manager. Jonathan served as a field support intern and accepted a construction yard laborer position with Smith-Rowe. He graduated from Surry Central High School and will work full-time while attending Surry Community College in the fall.
• Reagan Richardson – Smith-Rowe, LLC. Her mentors were Jody Phillips, vice president, and Richard Smith, project manager. Reagan accepted a welder position with Smith-Rowe. She is a graduate of North Surry High School and will continue working toward her welding degree at Surry Community College. Reagan is also the first North Carolina Department of Labor intern under the age of 18 approved to work in a welding facility. Vice President of Smith-Rowe Jody Phillips was instrumental in getting the legislation passed that enabled Reagan to be approved by the Department of Labor to begin her internship at Smith-Rowe at are 17.
• Caleb Byrd – Surry Communications. His mentor was Frankie Southard, customer service manager. Caleb accepted a customer care representative position with Surry Communications after being employed for one year. Caleb graduated from East Surry High School and will seek to further his education by pursuing a degree in diesel and heavy equipment technology from Forsyth Tech Community College.
• Cheyenne Seal – Surry Communications. Her mentor was Frankie Southard, customer service manager. Cheyenne graduated from North Surry High School and will continue with her education by attending Surry Community College to pursue business administration. She accepted a Customer Care Representative position with Surry Communications after starting her internship experience as a sophomore at 15 years of age.
• Jordan Koehler – Ultimate Towing and Recovery. His mentor was Gina Nichols, manager. Jordan accepted a mechanic position with Ultimate Towing and Recovery. He is a graduate of East Surry High School and will attend Forsyth Tech Community College to study diesel and heavy equipment technology.
The Next Generation Career Academy originated from an idea and partnership between Surry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Travis L. Reeves, Surry Community College President Dr. David R. Shockley. The academy was created out of a recognized need from local businesses looking for skilled workers. The academy provides high school students the opportunity to gain work experience to foster connections between classroom learning and the world of work.
“It is a unique opportunity for our schools and our community college to work together seamlessly to do what is right for our students, our businesses, and our community,” said Career Coach Crystal Folger-Hawks. “It is a pleasure to work with our businesses but it is especially a privilege to work with the students.”
“It has been a pleasure partnering with Surry County Schools and all of the businesses and industries,” Shockley said. “I see this effort as a continuing evolution of what we are trying to do at Surry Community College to provide the technical education and expertise that would allow businesses and industries to flourish. Through our efforts, we can compete, help our area flourish, provide the quality of life that our citizens deserve, and earn a good living wage that provides socioeconomic mobility. This is one of the most exciting experiences I have been a part of in my educational career.”
“Surry County Schools is a next-generation school district equipping all students with the skills necessary to be successful whether they pursue college or careers,” Reeves said. “The Next Generation Career Academy is one way we meet these most important student needs. What an exciting time to live, learn, and lead in Surry County. Students are gaining invaluable experiences that they will be able to take with them wherever they go in life, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. Especially during the recent changes in the economy, it is uplifting to see our talented students commit to working in our community.“
NEW BERN — Elkin was one of nineteen communities to receive awards for excellence in downtown revitalization at the North Carolina Main Street and Small Town Main Street Awards Ceremony recently. North Carolina Department of Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland and Assistant Secretary of Rural Economic Development Kenny Flowers presented the awards in categories that include economic vitality, design, promotion and organization.
“While the world struggles with the COVID-19 crisis and its economic consequences, the important work of programs like North Carolina Main Street continues,” Secretary Copeland said. “We’re proud of this year’s award-winners, whose innovative leadership generated public and private investment, spurred job creation and facilitated residential development to energize the state’s downtown districts.”
The North Carolina Main Street and Rural Planning Center at the N.C. Department of Commerce helps small towns create vibrant central business districts by using local resources to preserve their historic fabric and build upon their unique characteristics. A panel of judges chose this year’s award winners from more than 50 nominations submitted by Main Street communities across the state.
Assistant Secretary Flowers says the annual Main Street Awards are a chance to showcase best practices in building rehabilitation, downtown revitalization strategies, historic preservation and creative marketing. “Common to every successful Main Street program are authenticity and partnership, and these communities exemplify the best of those qualities,” Flowers said.
The Explore Elkin initiative was awarded Best Innovation this year for its contributions towards economic vitality by creating Explore Elkin memberships, hosting community meetings, accumulating data/community input, organizing downtown events, scheduling music and volunteers, creating new marketing resources, and increasing and promoting activities weekly in downtown and beyond. Explore Elkin organizes numerous events in downtown, and has created solid partnerships with The Reeves Theater, The Liberty, Main Street Advisory Board, Downtown Elkin Business Association, Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Foothills Arts Center. Explore The award was accepted by Natalie Eidson, Brittany Rogers, and Brittany Russell. CAVU Marketing, Creative ED Consulting (Crystal Morphis) and the Town of Elkin were also acknowledged as contributors to Explore Elkin’s success at the award ceremony.
Laura Gaylord, Elkin’s Main Street & Community Manager, sent in the nomination. “We are blessed to have such a dedicated team. They are all busy enough with their jobs and home life, and sometimes adding on the responsibilities of Explore Elkin must feel like a secnd full-time job to them, but these successful women continue to amaze us with boundless energy and creativity. We are so thankful for Explore Elkin’s positive effect on our community, but as with any event, you need a good team to pull it all together. I’m happy these three were able to attend the conference and accept this well-deserved award, but we can’t forget to thank those who organized the initiative in its early stages when Mayor Bishop asked Jeff Eidson to take on the challenge.” Laura continued, “Having the NC Main Street Program and the NC Dept of Commerce recognize Explore Elkin is truly an honor for our community.”
Join us at the county celebrates its history. The first European residents of what is now Surry County, came from Massachusetts and surrounding North Carolina Counties in the 1700s. Surry County was formed from what was Rowan County. It’s unclear whether Surry was the namesake for the English county of Surrey or it derived from indigenous people of the region, the Saura. The county will be hosting special events of the next year. Remember, it’s always a good time to come to Surry County!
PILOT MOUNTAIN — A Charlotte-based Fortune 1000 company is setting up a location in Pilot Mountain.Charlotte-based SPX Corp. says on its website that it is a global supplier of products and technologies for the HVAC, detection and measurement and engineered solutions markets. “This company is leasing the former Elastrix building also known as the Intex building on Stephens Street in Pilot Mountain,” said Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, which recruits businesses to the county. SPX is talking about hiring 10 people now with the possibility of adding a few more as the operation gets up and running. “We’re very excited to have SPX to come and open an operation in Pilot Mountain,” said Tucker. “They are putting to use a building that has been vacant for a couple of years, so it’s good to get that building back in productive use. ”Paul Clegg, SPX’s vice president of investor relations, said that the move comes after his company lost its lease on a building it occupied in Pennsylvania as the owner decided to go in another direction with the property. “We looked around for where we wanted to move the operation, and Pilot Mountain and the Surry County area came up high on our radar,” said Clegg. “We liked the location relative to our customer base and the quality labor pool.”Clegg said his firm’s customer base is made up of the wholesale distributors in the state. “We also happen to have several other operations located in the Carolinas, including our headquarters in Charlotte, so it’s easy for us to get to,” said Clegg, who works in the Ballantyne section of south Charlotte. In some cases, the EDP and county officials work together to offer some type of incentive package to entice a company to Surry County. In this case, the incentive was getting a space ready quickly so that the northern operation could move down right away, noted Tucker. “We have worked hard to get that building back into use, and we were fortunate to have an investor purchase the building and work with the company to lease it,” he said. “We did our best to get them in as quickly as possible.”SPX has some special needs for the building and is doing some unfitting for what machinery will go inside, Tucker said. Some job listings online for SPX Cooling Technologies include a material handler whose activities would “utilize a template to mark cutting lines on plastic sheets to be assembled and cutting sections out from sheets. ”There are also job listings for maintenance specialist, thermoformer operator, saw and packing operator, flipper, LMC operator and a plant superintendent. Thermoforming is using heat to shape plastic sheets into usable designs such as becoming the inner workings of a cooling tower, according to Clegg. These cooling towers and similar components don’t last forever and have to be replaced, thus giving SPX repeat customers. “Pilot Mountain is a great place to do business based on our ideal location, low taxes, access to services, and the pride our people take in their work,” said Evan Cockerham, Pilot Mountain mayor. “Our town is excited to welcome SPX to our business community, and I am grateful for their investment. “We’re always looking for new business partners and economic development,” said Van Tucker, chairman of the Surry County Board of Commissioners. He admitted he doesn’t know much about the company yet, but he appreciates employers bringing new jobs to the area. Clegg said he doesn’t know how many positions might have been filled locally already. Those interested in a position should check in at the facility at 523 S. Stephens St. between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.
Dobson, NC – October 29, 2019. Seven Renfro Corporation executives completed the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course through Surry Community College’s Customized Industry Training program, resulting in a total projected annual savings of $1.2 million for the company.
Renfro Corporation is a global leader in the design, manufacture, marketing, merchandising and selling of legwear products in North America and selected international markets.
“We are fortunate to have a partner like Surry Community College to guide us through the Six Sigma process. The identified savings are substantial, and the learnings that were garnered through the training will continue to provide value to Renfro. We look forward to continuing to work with the SCC team,” commented Stan Jewell, Renfro Corporation CEO and President.
Dr. Ronald Fite, Continuous Improvement Industry Trainer for the North Carolina Community College System, taught the class at Renfro Corporation’s location in Mount Airy. He is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Lean Master. The course was attended by Renfro Corporation employees: Aaron Alldaffer, Supply Chain Analyst; Tom McCluskey, Industrial Engineer; Chris Sparks, R&D Project Manager; Jonah Buelin, Vice President of Distribution; Taylor Shaw, Compliance and Logistics Analyst; Phil Thacker, Director of Engineering; and Kundan Karna, Director of International Accounting.
The eight-week training included a full-day of classes each week plus project assignments. At the course ending, students took an exam and then presented to upper level management cost reduction practices implemented from the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training. The students received Lean Six Sigma Green Belt graduation certificates on Sept. 26.
Surry Community College is annually rated in the top five community colleges in North Carolina for the number of training projects that assist new and existing industries.
“We are proud to say for the last two years, Surry Community College has been ranked No. 1 in the number of customized industry training projects, competing against metropolitan community colleges in Raleigh and Charlotte,” said Dr. David Shockley, SCC President. “That speaks volumes about how hard working our staff is in reaching out to business and industry in Surry and Yadkin counties and providing training solutions and assistance in our rural service area.”
Sam Brim is the Director of Business and Industry Services for Surry Community College and the contact point for these training resources.
“Through our Workforce Technologies and Community Education Division, Surry Community College offers programs and training services to assist new and existing businesses and industries to remain productive, profitable, and within the local communities. Surry Community College can bring employee training directly to you at your facilities, designed to accommodate your specific business needs.”
Training topics cover regulatory methods, continuous improvement practices, leadership skills, technical preparation, pre-employment requirements, and international import/export procedures.
“Surry Community College’s Customized Training Services continues to be a great resource that helps our local companies grow and become more sustainable from a business perspective,” said Todd Tucker, President of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, Inc. “This service is also a great marketing tool that we use when talking to other companies interested in Surry County. I recommend all companies reach out to Surry Community College to discuss their training needs.”
To learn more contact about Customized Industry Training through Surry Community College, contact Sam Brim at (336) 386-3684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Renfro Corporation employees are recognized for graduating from Six Sigma Green Belt training provided by Surry Community College. They are accompanied by representatives from Renfro Corporation and Surry Community College. (Pictured left to right): Sam Brim, Director of Business and Industry Services, Surry Community College; Stonie Stone, Senior Vice President Corporate Marketing, Renfro Corporation; Dr. David Shockley, President, Surry Community College; Taylor Shaw, Six Sigma Green Belt Graduate, Renfro Corporation; Phil Thacker, Six Sigma Green Belt Graduate, Renfro Corporation; Jonah Buelin, Six Sigma Green Belt Graduate, Renfro Corporation; Jay Robinson, Senior Vice President Performance Brand Development, Renfro Corporation; Chris Sparks, Six Sigma Green Belt Graduate, Renfro Corporation; Bob Buckman, Executive Vice President of Supply Chain, Renfro Corporation; Tom McCluskey, Six Sigma Green Belt Graduate, Renfro Corporation; Stan Jewell, Chief Executive Officer and President, Renfro Corporation; Aaron Alldaffer, Six Sigma Green Belt Graduate, Renfro Corporation; Cathleen Allred, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Renfro Corporation; Kundan Karna, Six Sigma Green Belt Graduate, Renfro Corporation; and Michael Everly, Chief Information Officer, Renfro Corporation.
About Surry Community College
Surry Community College was founded in 1964 and the campus is located in Dobson, North Carolina. As one of the state’s 58 community colleges, it serves Surry and Yadkin counties. The college also operates four off-campus learning centers: The Yadkin Center, Yadkinville; the Center for Public Safety, Mount Airy; The Pilot Center, Pilot Mountain; and The Elkin Center in Elkin. Surry offers degrees, diplomas or certificate programs in Advanced Manufacturing; Agricultural Science; Arts and Design; Business and Computer Technologies; College Transfer; Construction Technologies; Emergency Medical; Fire and Rescue; Health Sciences; Law Enforcement; Public Service; and Transportation System Technologies areas along with hundreds of continuing education courses and seminars in a variety of fields. The college, under the direction of President Dr. David R. Shockley, has a mission to promote personal growth and community development to a diverse population through excellence in teaching, learning, and service. For more information, go to www.surry.edu. The college also has a strong social media presence. To visit these sites, go to www.surry.edu/follow-us.
DOBSON — In 5-10 years, 60% of working adults will need some kind of post-high school training in the workplace.
That’s the viewpoint of Peter Hans, president of the N.C. Community College System, who spoke to manufacturers at a luncheon Friday.
Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, said it was no surprise that the group was holding this National Manufacturing Day luncheon on the campus of Surry Community College. A cost-effective education is invaluable to manufacturing, he believes.
Dr. David Shockley, SCC president, said it is important that people supply good opportunities to their children and grandchildren.
There are great quality-of-life jobs right here in their community that they don’t know about or understand, Shockley said of today’s students. He was glad to look around the room and see public school partners as they and himself can work together to help lead children toward those good opportunities and help them to become future leaders of this county. They will contribute to the economic well-being of Surry one day.
“It is all of our jobs to make sure we maintain this. So thanks for coming out for this day,” Shockley said.
Shockley introduced Hans, saying he was a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a master’s degree from Harvard.
Hans said that yes he has college degrees himself, and that is a great option, but there are many other paths students can take to prepare for the workplace.
He applauded the relationships that SCC has formed with manufacturers because they can open students eyes to pathways that they may never have considered. And they can pursue these fields without the large student debt that can come with four-year schools.
More than 40% of Americans now have some sort of high-value credentials beyond high school, he said. And there is a need to get that above 60% in the next 5-10 years. He told the audience to notice he didn’t say 4-year degree, but high-value credentials beyond high school, which could include a two-year degree or a technical/vocational certification.
Sen. Deanna Ballard, whose District 45 includes most of Surry County, was in attendance. Hans gave thanks to Ballard and Sen. Phil Berger, whose District 30 covers the rest of Surry. Hans said the two senators have shown their support for education.
He said during one conversation with Berger he was explaining how a community college welding class was only being funded at two-thirds the rate of a university sociology course, despite the vast increase in cost (such as machinery and supplies) necessary to teach welding.
He said Berger instantly understood the problem and answered, “But we need more welders than sociologists.”
“We’re an enrollment-based funded institution,” said Hans. So, when students take more classes, the college can get more funding. When manufacturers make use of the community colleges, the colleges can offer greater variety of courses.
Surry County has a lot of competitive assets here that Todd Tucker is selling to outside companies, said Hans.
Manufacturing jobs today, he pointed out, these are not the mills of folks’ grandparents, but rather offer sophisticated machinery and better pay. Companies and colleges are working to change perceptions and awareness.
“There are multiple paths to success,” he said.
After his speech, Hans took a question from the audience.
What about when a company doesn’t want to wait two years for a good candidate to get training, but would rather have eight weeks or 12 weeks of training, then the employer can train on the job from there?
“I think that is the future of education, shorter term acquisition of skills,” he said.
One of the problems with how state officials view community colleges, he said, is “we’re being judged on graduation rates.”
The idea of education is to prepare young people for adulthood and a career, he explained, and if that can happen in less than two years, then the school has done its job. A graduation rate doesn’t capture the profile of the students.
Shockley chimed in to say the college spent $20,000 recently to offer a truck driver training program; the course created enough certified drivers to equal $2 million in potential job earnings when they get hired.
The government spending on four-year schools compared to two-year schools is 15 to 1, said Hans.
“We’ve got enough sociologists. We need more welders.”
Article by: Mount Airy News
Surry County Economic Development Partnership, Inc.
1218 State St.,
Mt. Airy NC 27030
PO BOX 7128