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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Forsyth Technical Community College has been awarded $5 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to support community colleges in advancing career pathways in manufacturing to meet employers’ demand for more skilled workers.
Forsyth Tech will lead a consortium of eight community colleges across the Piedmont Triad in a project called Aligning the Workforce Education System for Manufacturing. Forsyth Tech is the only community college in North Carolina and one of 11 colleges nationally to receive an award under the Department of Labor’s Strengthening Community Colleges program.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Forsyth Tech and our partner community colleges to build a clearer education-workforce development system, ultimately making North Carolina more prosperous,” said President of Forsyth Tech Janet Spriggs. “The ultimate outcome will ensure coordination between workers’ skills and employers’ expectations, resulting in an increased number of adults with well-paying jobs in advanced manufacturing.”
Joining with Forsyth Tech are Alamance Community College, Davidson-Davie Community College, Guilford Technical Community College, Montgomery Community College, Randolph Community College, Rockingham Community College and Surry Community College. Their foundational activity will be creating a Business & Industry Leadership Team (BILT) giving regional employers a co-leadership role for technical programs in machining and mechatronics.
Through the BILT, the consortium will define the skills and competencies that students need to meet the needs of manufacturing employers. The consortium will introduce competency-based digital “badges” that students can earn. The badges will identify for employers those applicants who have demonstrated the skills required for a particular manufacturing-related job.
“The goal is to bridge the gap between what knowledge, skills and abilities employers need in their employees and turn that into a learner-centered curriculum. We hope to do this in a way that is designed to bring about system change,” said John Carstens, dean of Engineering Technologies at Forsyth Tech. “By bringing together community colleges and employers, we ensure the manufacturing sector continues to thrive with a pipeline of highly skilled workers.”
Forsyth Tech has already embarked on the creation of Business & Industry Leadership Teams within advanced manufacturing led by David Dinkins, department chair. The college will take a leadership role in expanding that work across the region, supporting the partner colleges and aligning workforce development across a 12-county region.
With an emphasis on machining, welding and industrial maintenance, the teams will work together to revise or start training programs and related credentials that are both portable and more impactful for employees and employers. One goal is to give students credit for skills they already have to maximize their time and connect them with training that would fill the gaps.
“This approach aligns more closely with how people live and work in today’s world,” Carstens said. “It allows students to pause their education and take an entry-level job, badges in hand. They can take courses nights or weekends from any college in the region, confident their training aligns with job competencies employers want.”