Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Advanced Technology Center partners with companies locally, overseas for training

Published 12:05 am Friday, October 14, 2022

By Brad Dountz

KANNAPOLIS — Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Advanced Technology Center has stayed busy since it opened in 2019. The center helps students get their degrees, complete apprenticeships and get  jobs in manufacturing or advanced technology.

What makes the ATC stand out among other programs is that it partners with companies from around the world to train students on the kinds of equipment they’ll use on job sites in the future.

“We wanted this facility to provide world-class training,” Craig Lamb, vice president of corporate and continuing education at RCCC, said. “We sought out our business partners locally and we sought out business partners internationally to be able to make sure that when people came here they got the best of the best.”

The ATC worked with roughly 260 companies last year and that number is increasing due to global reach programs. Okuma Corp., one the leading companies in making machine tools based in Japan, has partnered with the ATC to help their employees train on the kinds of machines they use at their job. “We represent Okuma America and everyone in North, Central and South America who’s one of their customers, who needs factory training, comes here for that training,” Lamb said.

The ATC has long term relationships with the companies they work with, which leads to long term solutions to the kind of problems that must be addressed in different kinds of ways.

“It’s a dynamic place that seeks to identify the technological and talent issues that our manufacturing customers face and we match the right kind of training programs to help people gain the skill level they need to achieve whatever the companies are trying to achieve,” Lamb said.

The ATC focuses on local companies just as much as international ones. For the past seven years, the North Carolina Manufacturing Institute, a team of 48 manufacturing companies, got together to figure out where the next generation of manufacturing workers are coming from. The ATC has developed a common marketing program with the institute to show people the benefits of working in manufacturing. They also have a training program and certification program that can be attended through a scholarship funded by the institute so people can acquire jobs in that field. They also collaborate to market manufacturing to the community, making sure they understand the value of the jobs being offered.

For people coming to the ATC to train, the experience can be eye-opening.

“What surprised me the most is everything is all up to date. It’s not like you’re coming in and it’s all run down machines, it’s actually new stuff, it’s in today’s era not yesteryear’s as I put it,” Scott Seese, an employee from Morris South’s Arkansas division, said. “And the teachers, obviously. They brought us somebody that actually knows the field, not somebody that’s going off the textbook.”

The impact of these new industries to the county can be immediate. One benefit of just some these companies bringing people to train in the county is that they have paid for 5,000 hotel stays per year. How much the county has improved recently has helped attract companies to come here.

“One of the biggest challenges in today’s market that an employer who’s either building or expanding a facility has to think about is where will the workforce come from. We’re in a nice spot because we have both of our counties happen to be growing in population,” Lamb said. “Our ability to tell the story about how Rowan and Cabarrus counties can transform and transition a workforce from where it is now to where it needs to be, to fill their needs present and future, is what is helping close a lot of those deals.”

Vector is a robotic concierge that helps visitors when they come to the center.

This Okuma CNC machine is designed to whittle metal off of an industrial part.

This machine is used by trainees for plastic injection molding.

Some of the raw, plastic material before it is molded and processed.