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Ellmers impressed by CCCC workforce training at Innovation Center

Click to enlarge Ellmers impressed by CCCC workforce training at Innovation Center

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Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R, N.C. District 2) visited Central Carolina Community College's Industry ... (more)

Click to enlarge Ellmers impressed by CCCC workforce training at Innovation Center

click to enlarge ⊗

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R, N.C. District 2) visited Central Carolina Community College's Industry ... (more)

03.14.2014College & CommunityCollege General

SANFORD - Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R, N.C. District 2) recently visited Central Carolina Community College's Industry Training Center at the Lee County Innovation Center to learn more about the workforce training taking place there and the community partnerships that have made it successful.

"I'm very impressed with everything I see here," Ellmers said after the Feb.19 visit. "This is what happens when communities work together for the mutual good."

Ellmers serves on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. Her district includes all or parts of Alamance, Chatham, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Moore, Randolph and Wake counties.

Planning for the Innovation Center took root in 2010, when Caterpillar, Inc. decided to build a new fabrication plant in the Lee County Industrial Park, which required a skilled workforce. The Lee County Board of Commissioners saw the potential for economic growth and purchased a vacant manufacturing building in the park to turn into a workforce training facility.

Central Carolina Community College moved its Industry Services Office into the facility and established its Industry Training Center. It now does a variety of workforce training for a number of industries in the area and beyond. That training includes simulated work environment, welding, robotic welding, hydraulics, pneumatics, and more.

"The most important thing is to have a location where training can be flexible and customized to meet industry needs and requirements," said Cathy Swindell, the college's director of Industry Services. "We have to work around their schedules and turn on a dime when they need us to. I haven't heard of anybody doing what we're doing to this scale."

In 2012, the college, Lee County Schools, Caterpillar and the N.C. Department of Labor collaborated to launch an apprenticeship in welding program for high school students. Part of their training takes place at the Innovation Center. Swindell said the college is talking to other industries about starting apprenticeships.

"Apprenticeships are an area we've got to be more successful in," Ellmers said. "If we're going to be creating jobs in North Carolina, we must have people prepared in these skill sets."

The congresswoman said that she attended a community college and that too many young people go off to a four-year college or university, only to find that it is not a good fit for them. She said it is important to let young people know they can be successful in many fields with a community college education.

Dr. Pam Senegal, CCCC vice president for Economic and Community Development, told Ellmers that the college, public schools in Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties, businesses, industries, organizations and private individuals are now collaborating on a Central Carolina Works initiative.

This will place career and college advisors in each of the high schools, at no charge to the schools, to advise students on the best path to achieve their education and career goals. That could be training to be job-ready when they graduate from high school or the community college or preparing to go on to a four-year school.

"I can't say enough about the community college system," Ellmers said. "If we're training the workforce for tomorrow, we have to send the message to young people to pursue their interests - and that may be at a community college. We've got to advocate for that."

Also part of the Innovation Center tour were Kirk Smith, Lee County commissioner; Donnie Oldham, chair of the Lee County Economic Development Corporation; Keith Clark, CCCC trustee; Kendall Crawford, CCCC industry trainer/coordinator and tour guide; Bryan Fox, Ellmers' field representative; and Margaret Polt, general manager, and Timothy Gelsinger, director of quality, at The Challenge Printing Company in the Lee County Industrial Park.

For more information about training offered by Central Carolina Community College at the Innovation Center, contact Cathy Swindell at 919-718-7212 or by email at