TAKE 5: CC Works touted as win-win-win program

May. 10, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

This week, we Take 5 with The Herald’s 2013 Citizen of the Year, Dr. Bud Marchant, about the Central Carolina Works project. Marchant is the president of Central Carolina Community College.

With the fundraising completed and grants now in place, Central Carolina Works seems poised to launch strongly come the fall. What’s being done now at CCCC and at local high schools to prepare for its implementation?

We have already hired two Lead Career and College Advisors who are highly qualified and bring years of experience with similar innovative programs. These advisors, along with Virginia Brown, CCCC director of Secondary Partnerships, are further developing the Central Carolina Works program and advisor training.

We are in the process of hiring the seven remaining advisors, who will work with students in each of the public high schools in the college’s service area of Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties. We are delighted by the number and quality of the applicants for the positions. The advisors will participate in training throughout the month of July before reporting to their respective high schools in August.

We have held several meetings in each county to discuss Central Carolina Works and the roles of the advisors. These meetings have gone extremely well and have assisted us with the development of the advisor training. We discussed processes and ways in which the advisors can offer support at each high school, along with ways in which we can streamline efforts. We are communicating regularly with the superintendents in each county regarding CCWorks updates and efforts.

There has been some local criticism of CCWorks, but programs with similar emphasis are popping up across the country. Can you talk about dual enrollment — why is it important and how will it help our students?

The idea of dual enrollment, along with the K-14 movement, is growing nationally. This movement is industry-driven. As industry retools and reinvests in America, it has come to realize that the skill sets needed to be successful in modern manufacturing don’t fit the skill sets of American workers or students leaving high school. Much has been written about major employers being unable to fill positions due to the lack of skilled workers.

Dual enrollment is one way that students can begin to develop the necessary skills to be successful in today’s work environment. While not unique, the North Carolina system of dual enrollment is very advantageous to high school students. It allows qualified students to take courses, career and technical and/or university transfer free of charge. These students exit high school better prepared for the world of work or with advanced standing at a university. This also applies to apprenticeship programs, which allow students to earn high school, college and industry credit at the same time.

It is definitely a win-win for everyone. The students benefit by earning college credit and job skills. The parents win by not having to pay for expensive college classes the students take in high school, and the state wins by having a highly educated workforce that helps attract business and industry.

CC Works recently was awarded a grant of $800,000 from the state for workforce development. That, other grants and private and public fundraising are footing the bill for this program. What’s the breakdown in funding sources?

The original goal of the fundraising, which was led and directed by local businessman and developer Kirk Bradley, was one-third, one-third, and one-third. He wanted and was successful in raising one-third of the start-up funds privately, one-third through grants, and one-third from the three counties. His idea was to have the total three-county community invested in the program.

Kirk’s plan was a tremendous success. Grants include the workforce development grant you mentioned from the state, as well as grants from the Golden Leaf Foundation and Duke Energy Foundation. The private sector was extremely supportive, with gifts coming from businesses, industries and individuals from across the three counties.

All three county boards of commissioners voted to financially support the program. The commissioners of Chatham and Harnett did so unanimously. I was very proud to see that Chatham County’s yearly report to the people, which was recently published in The Herald, listed supporting Central Carolina Works as one of the commissioners’ top achievements.

Kirk wanted to make the point that raising the bar in educational opportunity for all of the citizens of our three-county area was a joint, community-wide effort. Under Kirk’s leadership, the community came through loud and clear, united in the effort to make the Central Carolina region the best place to work and live in North Carolina.

We’ve spoken before about strong employment opportunities in traditional blue-collar fields. What role will CCCC play in helping train prospective employees and helping local industries ensure manpower is available?

I don’t like the term “blue collar.” As I said earlier, American industry is retooling and reinvesting. Now, what is being off-shored are low-skill, low-paying jobs, while high-skill, high-paying jobs are returning and being created here in the United States.

To fill these high-skill, high-wage jobs, the skill sets of all students coming out of high school, community college or university have got to change. Modern manufacturing and production facilities need people who can think and analyze problems and situations, as well as work with their hands. CCCC partners with local industries to constantly help them upgrade the skills of their workers.

Through Central Carolina Works, CCCC and the three school districts will work with local industries to make sure that we are producing graduates who are ready to take the high-skill jobs these industries have to offer. This effort will help ensure that our local industries are competitive both nationally and internationally. It will also make the Central Carolina region very attractive to businesses and industries looking to expand and relocate.

Where do you see CC Works in five years?

I hope that Central Carolina Works is an integral part of the educational opportunities offered all students in our three-county region. I hope that every student exits high school with some sort of work-related credit or transfer credit. I also hope that we as a region will lead the state in developing a complete and comprehensive K-14 system of education that will provide unlimited opportunities for our students.