Joint effort to boost job training


Staff Writer

Sunday, May 27, 2018

With more job opportunities coming down the line in Eastern North Carolina, the importance of people in the Twin Counties and the surrounding area getting the skills they need to become more viable to gain employment is critical.

Community college presidents from Edgecombe Community College, Nash Community College, Halifax Community College, Pitt Community College and Martin Community College recently came together at the offices of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership to have a meeting of the minds to help improve and sharpen the region’s workforce assets.

During the discussion, community college presidents talked about the difficulty local employers often have finding qualified applicants for job vacancies, such as Keihin Carolina System Technology in Edgecombe County, which require new workers with the right blend of technical and soft skills.

Deborah Lamm, who is retiring as president of Edgecombe Community College after 14 years, said the college has made several outreach efforts to high school students and mid-career learners.

“At ECC, we’ve developed a marketing campaign that says, ‘If you want a job at one of these companies, the time is now to get that credential so that you will be ready in 2019,’” she said. 

Lamm said the college has developed a “Pathways to Industrial Careers” brochure to try to correct some of the misperceptions about modern manufacturing work.

“The public often still sees the industry as dirty,” she said. “That’s not the case today. It’s clean, it’s safe and it offers high-paying jobs.”

Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership, said it was extremely important for the community college leaders to come together in one room and brainstorm about how to get enough people ready to become employees at plants coming to the area like Triangle Tire, which is making the biggest-ever rural investment in North Carolina.

Triangle Tire, which has begun site preparation work at the Kingsboro Megasite, announced in December it will create 800 jobs and invest $580 million in Edgecombe County in building its first manufacturing facility outside of China.

Tolson has said the full build-out of the project could be a little more than $1 billion in investment and create more than 1,000 jobs.

The company is building the plant in two phases, with a passenger tire facility for phrase one and a commercial tire facility in phase two. 

Triangle Tire officials have said the expectation is to have both phrases completed by 2023, and the company expects to produce six million tires annually. Triangle Tire in Edgecombe County is expected to pay an average wage of $56,450, which is almost double the county’s average of $32,642.

Corning Inc. announced in December that it will invest $86 million in Edgecombe County to build a global distribution center and create 149 jobs.

In Wilson County, Fresenius Kabi, a global health care company, announced in November plans to expand its manufacturing operations in the county and to hire nearly 450 workers over the next five years. In April, Neopac, a Swiss-based pharmaceutical and cosmetic packaging producer, announced plans to create 44 new jobs and invest $30.8 million in its first U.S. manufacturing plant.

Halifax County has jobs in the solar-farm construction industry, where starting positions pay from $15 to $19 per hour.

“When we have a company like Triangle, they aren’t just going to recruit in Edgecombe and Nash counties, but they’re going to recruit in the surrounding counties,” Tolson said. “Likewise, when Wilson County gets that new pharmaceutical company, some of those employees are going to come from the Twin Counties. Bridgestone (Firestone) has gotten a lot of employees from Edgecombe County that work at that tire plant.”

The six community college presidents are looking to pool their resources for additional promotion on a regional level, such as producing a video for posting on college websites, airing ads on TV and radio and using social media platforms like Facebook and Youtube.

Nash Community College President Bill Carver said community college leaders working together form the best advocacy voice for regional workforce readiness.

“When it’s time to address individual career advancement or solutions surrounding customized training, the community college system consistently is the answerer,” he said. “Given the number of partners in this endeavor, the region is sure to benefit form this combined effort.”