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Rowan-Cabarrus pursuing advanced technology center

KANNAPOLIS — Cabarrus County residents approved the 2014 Rowan-Cabarrus bond referendum for an advanced technology center with more than 64 percent of the vote. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is continuing the effort to build the facility and educational programming that would make this a reality.

“We believe that this is the next step forward for our region – advanced technology and advanced manufacturing. An advanced technology center will be a flagship to help attract employers to the region,” said Dr. Carol. S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus. “This will help us bring a higher level of training and meet the needs of the community, which are a big part of economic development.

The college recently brought consultants from the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC) to assist in the planning efforts.

“Our goal is to think outside the box and provide a facility that will enable the college to offer the most advantageous training possible,” said Spalding. “We want to create a place and programing that will support the businesses we do have and bring new ones to the area.”

The NCATC is a network of higher education resources that promotes the use of technology applications that enhance economic and workforce development programs and services. NCATC is affiliated with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the national organization for all 1,167 public and independent community colleges across the United States.

“Industry input all along the way is emphatically important. During our interviews we spent a lot of time with representatives from the information technology, energy, manufacturing, construction and health care fields,” said J. Craig McAtee, executive director of NCATC. “Additionally, our process included conversations with other local colleges and economic development leaders. We want you to have the best advanced technology center in the country We will ultimately provide you with a detailed report that will hopefully be a blueprint you can use to spring forward the development of your new advanced technology center.”

The interviews with industry leaders provided guidance for both the present and the future. For instance, one of the initial takeaways was the potential to offer training that would support a multi-skilled industrial maintenance technician.

The college already teaches many of the components. What’s different would be cross-training across all of these platforms. Nationally, this training is known as mechatronics. Mechatronics is a combination of a number of skills allowing employers to have access to employees who can troubleshoot multiple kinds of facility and equipment problems. The training for such positions can be difficult because the equipment necessary is sometimes spread across different locations.

“One of the goals of our interviews was to identify new and upcoming initiatives for the region. Industry leaders made recommendations about programs and training that they are unable to find elsewhere,” said Jack Roach, director of special projects at Florence-Darlington Technical College.

Some emerging opportunities noted by the consultants include a fabrication lab, 3D Digital Design and additive manufacturing, diesel maintenance technicians, SmartGrid technicians and alternative energy technicians.

In addition, the college invited a group of futurists to participate in the conversations to capture new developments and improvements that could be used in the programming for an advanced technology and manufacturing facility.

“This certainly brought added value to our experience. It takes true courage to build something based upon emerging trends,’” said McAtee. “This will set this region’s advanced technology center apart.”

A site for the new center has yet to be determined, but was a key part of the discussions. In the next few weeks, the college will receive a draft report of the findings and recommendations from the consultants.

In addition to the funding from Cabarrus County, the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Foundation is supporting this effort and the college is exploring grants and donations to support the equipment for the training. The college will also consider partnerships with local and national suppliers for laboratories and programs.

For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, visit www.rccc.edu or call 704-216-7222.

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