Sen. Burr focuses on skills training

Aug. 18, 2014 @ 01:49 PM

For the first time in five years, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr was at Randolph Community College to brush up on what students currently entering the workforce are learning.
He visited with Dr. Robert Shackleford, president of RCC, who provided a tour of the school's facilities. The focus of Burr's visit was on industrial education and the college's partnership with local businesses.
“When I'm not in Washington, I try to get at least one stop at an educational-based facility,” Burr said. “It had been five years since I visited this facility, and I thought this would be a great opportunity – with their extension of skills manufacturing – to see what they're doing and see what kind of impact it can make in a county and in a part of the state that really is reliant upon manufacturing. And I think it will continue to see manufacturing grow.”
RCC, through its corporate and continuing education division, partners with new and existing businesses and industries to train, retrain and upgrade skills of individuals for current or future employment. It assesses specific training needs and customizes them to best fit the student's schedule and operation.
These routes to advancing their education – and employment – are what Burr believes students in North Carolina must be afforded if the state is to remain ahead of the curve.
“Understanding how the administration has refocused, the mission is not to prepare for someone to transfer to a four-year school,” Burr said. “But it is to invest in skills-based education, so that they're producing people with the skills needed to actually go be employed. I think that the partnership and the relationship they've got with business here is evidence of the fact they're listening to business about what their needs are.”
Continuing education programs and services are designed to create opportunities for adults to pursue non-traditional courses suited to individual needs. These opportunities afford customized training to individuals for job advancement that can enhance one’s career or prepare for entry into a new career.
Courses are open to all adults 18 years of age and older. A high school diploma is not required for enrollment in most continuing education courses.
Courses are offered at RCC for all working shifts seven days a week. They can be delivered on site or at one of the campus locations in Asheboro and Archdale.
“One thing we did, I went with the head of our welding program out to John Deere-Hitatchi. They hire a lot of welders,” Shackleford said. “We chatted, talked, and learned there is a basic test [for employment]. It's a basic piece of welding. They can look at the thickness and consistency. If they don't pass that test, they can't work there. So we take that back to our welders ... and we bought the [equipment] so we could test for those things and tell our students, 'OK, you wouldn't pass the test.' That's how we're trying to let industry form us.”
Burr came away impressed with the efforts made by RCC in building relationships with companies in the area. He believes this vision is one that should be shared and prioritized universally among the state's institutions.
“I think we should be a partner with apprenticeship programs, where kids are working in the companies,” said Burr. “We should be a partner with companies where we're setting up courses specifically for students to be prepared to go into their companies and their manufacturing floor. We ought to be in the business of providing the skills to the students to teach them to be great welders and electricians and tool-and-die folks where they're marketable across a wide scope of employers.
“Because community colleges and education as a whole needs to understand their mission is the marketability of the students that are in their system. It's not how well we craft a degree; it's how we funnel them with the skills that employ them.”

Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.