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Kannapolis schools win national grant

KANNAPOLIS — Kannapolis City Schools will launch Phase 2 of an advanced manufacturing program next year, thanks to a recent grant from State Farm Insurance.

The district was one of 40 in the nation to receive a $25,000 Neighborhood Assist Grant from the insurance agency.

KCS was chosen from among 2,000 applicants as a finalist to compete for the grant. Winners were chosen by popular vote.

The program started several years ago when Kannapolis City Schools began working with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to tailor class offerings to the local job market, said Daryle Adams, director of CTE, STEAM and Title III with Kannapolis City Schools.

“And as we looked, manufacturing is one of the major growing areas in North Carolina,” he said.

According to a news release, there are more than 1,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in Cabarrus County.

Advanced manufacturing would also help the district reach students who don’t thrive in traditional classrooms. A.L. Brown High School already has academies for STEM, the arts and cooking but still wasn’t reaching all its students.

“The part we were missing, in my mind, were the kids who loved to work with their hands and who can still contribute to our economy. … And oftentimes, it’s the kids who get bored with classroom math and English who often end up dropping out because there’s nothing for their talents,” Adams said.

A.L. Brown has already seen success with its welding program, which launched in fall of 2015.

“We were amazed at the number of students who gravitated to that,” Adams said.

The program is open to 12 juniors and 12 seniors each year. Students attend classes at the district’s career center on West C. Street, taught by instructors from RCCC. By the time they graduate, students are certified to enter the workforce or have the skills to pursue further education.

According to a news release, 100 percent of students who graduate from the program are either employed or furthering their training. Students enter the cohort-structured program their junior year.

By the time they graduate, they’re certified in metal inert gas and tungsten inert gas welding and can earn between $30,000 and $40,000 a year. If they choose to complete RCCC’s three-year welding program, they could earn as much as $80,000.

The new mechatronics program will follow a similar structure, Adams said, with students earning their certification by the time they graduate.

“So really, our goal is to make sure we’re producing young men and women who are employable, who have the skills needed in today’s job market,” he said.

School officials say the grant will provide enough equipment to train as many as 60 students each year.

“It’s a good start,” Adams said of the grant. “It will cover a lot of the equipment we need to purchase.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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