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RCCC lets students get ‘a taste of industry’

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

SALISBURY — Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, in conjunction with Duke Energy, recently hosted Taste of Industry to showcase trade career options through the college’s technical pathway programs.

“We are grateful to Duke Energy for their support of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College,” college President Carol S. Spalding said. “Their continued support and significant contributions to the college over the last few years have been vital.”

The showcase featured a panel of leaders from industry fields such as machinists, welders and IT management. High school teachers, counselors and college instructors joined to explore the career options in fields that pay well and have good benefits.

“Our goal for this event was to engage with core subject high school teachers to show them what careers in technical education really look like,” said Van Madray, dean of business, engineering technologies and public services. “We discussed our industry-related programs, such as information technology, welding, machining, and gave the teachers an opportunity to participate in interactive simulations. Many were surprised at the careers available — these are not your grandfather’s jobs. They are high-tech, high-demand and high-paying.”

The grant also allowed the college to purchase curriculum kits for each teacher in attendance. The kit was designed to be taken back to the classroom to implement what was learned. The kit included calculators, calipers, a networking kit (raspberry pi), a poster, and a flash drive full of five lesson plans.

The Duke Energy Foundation provides more than $30 million annually in charitable gifts. It focuses on kindergarten to career education, particularly in areas of science, technology, engineering and math, early childhood literacy and workforce development. Workforce and economic growth is a primary area of Duke Energy’s philanthropic priorities.

“Developing the region’s workforce benefits us all,” said Randy Welch, district manager for Duke Energy Carolinas. “Our investments come full circle when many of the students go on to work for area industries, and those industries then gain skilled workers trained to meet the community needs.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing employment increased by 22,000 in March. Durable goods accounted for the majority, while fabricated metal products added 9,000 of those jobs. So far this year, manufacturing industries have added 74,000 jobs in the U.S.

“We want to get the word out to the community that the four-year college path is not the only, or necessarily the best, path for every student to pursue,” said Crystal Ryerson, marketing and enrollment manager at Rowan-Cabarrus. “Technology is changing the world around us every day, and the job market is affected by this in a major way. In order for our students to have a sustainable future, we have to adapt to the new norm of preparing for the workforce.”

The Taste of Industry panelists answered questions about job placement, salary expectancy, and employee benefits. High school teachers and counselors learned about changes in the job market and what kinds of skills employers are looking for. Soft skills and a desire to show up to work on time were the top requirements communicated.

“Competition in overly saturated job markets makes it harder for today’s college graduates to find profitable employment, which not only hurts the economy but also halts economic growth in development within our communities,” said Madray. “Technical careers are lucrative options that go largely unnoticed because everyone is focused on four-year institutions. Meanwhile, great job opportunities are going unfilled right here in the Rowan and Cabarrus communities.”

Manufacturers across the country are facing a gap between the technical skills their employees need and the skills they find in applicants. Rowan-Cabarrus is working with manufacturers to address the gap and help employers fill high-tech, high-wage jobs.

“The goal is to develop a college-going community, whether they attend to learn a skilled trade, obtain a degree or certification, or to advance in their current career,” said Spalding. “Rowan-Cabarrus offers the tools to provide the learning they need to progress further in life.”

Thanks to another grant from the National Science Foundation, the college will continue to offer this showcase for the next few years. Anyone interested in participating should contact Crystal Ryerson at crystal.ryerson@rccc.edu of 704-216-3806.

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

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