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ARC Grant Enhances MTCC Workforce Training

McDowell Technical Community College received upgraded instructional equipment recently due to a grant in the amount of $95,767 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The purpose of the grant was to assist with a major project intended to grow the newly established McDowell Apprenticeship Pipeline (MAP) and related career and technical training. With grant proceeds, the college has purchased a cache of mobile training equipment in Mechatronics and Applied Engineering to prepare youth, ages 18 to 24, to meet the skilled workforce needs of local and regional employers in Mechatronic-related careers.

“It is no secret that the demand for highly-trained technicians far exceeds the supply of available workers in those fields,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President. “We established the McDowell Apprenticeship Pipeline to create a training model that will consistently bring new workers to local manufacturers to meet their workforce needs. More importantly, students in our apprentice programs do not have to forego an income while they are in training; they receive a high-quality education AND earn an hourly wage for their work-based learning modules.”

ARC Grant Enhances MTCC Workforce Training

Stacy Buff, Vice-President for Workforce Development, (foreground, r) talks with representative of company from whom the college recently purchased new mobile training equipment with grant funding from Appalachian Regional Commission.

ARC Grant Enhances MTCC Workforce Training

Thomas Champ (Coordinator of Work-Based Learning, foreground l, and Stacy Buff (Vice-President for Workforce Development), foreground r, unpack equipment purchased with funding from Appalachian Regional Commission.

Equipment provided by the ARC grant will primarily be used to further develop and expand Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that target students at McDowell High School in Mechatronics and Applied Engineering, said Stacy Buff, Assistant Vice-President for Workforce Development. Buff is already working in collaboration with officials at the High School to expand college-level curriculum offerings beginning this spring and is also working with local employers to develop and expand apprenticeship programs for students in the CTE and other work-based learning programs.

“We know that only 48% of McDowell County students transition from high school to some type of post-secondary education within one year of graduation, compared to 57% of students in other rural counties in North Carolina,” said Buff. “But more striking, is the fact that 37% of jobs in the county are manufacturing based, compared to 10% statewide. Our goal is to increase the number of students getting skills training at the college level, training that will help them get high-paying jobs with local and regional employers,” he said.

The new package of equipment which recently arrived at the college’s Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center included technology workstations, pneumatics learning systems, and troubleshooting equipment for Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC’s), electric motor controls, AC variable frequency drives and level and flow Process Controllers. Also included is a measurement tools learning system, site licenses for troubleshooting software and a host of related electronic equipment.

“We feel fortunate that we are able to purchase all of this mobile equipment to bring our training program to high school students,” said Buff. “There is no reason for our kids to graduate and take low-wage jobs where they will struggle for years to make ends meet when they can get the training they need now to take high-paying jobs with great growth potential. The best part is that the training is free and apprentices get paid for their site-based training with employers.”

“The McDowell Apprenticeship Pipeline is a practical, cost-effective solution to meeting regional workforce demands,” said Merritt, the MTCC President. “Our long-standing collaboration with public school and industry partners gave us the vision we needed to make this happen, but it was the grant from Appalachian Regional Commission that gave us the means to put our vision into action. The long-term health of our workforce and economy depends on these kinds of partnerships, and the college will continue to seek opportunities and solutions everywhere we can find them.”

For more information about the McDowell Apprenticeship Pipeline (MAP), visit . To establish or enroll in an apprenticeship program, contact Thomas Champ at 828-659-0454 ([email protected]) or Stacy Buff at 828-652-0663 ([email protected]).

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