Manufacturers, others seek to increase jobs

Published 7:25 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2013

More than 30 business, education and community leaders met Wednesday at Beaufort County Community College to discuss ways in which they could work together to increase the number of manufacturing jobs in Beaufort County.

“This community dialogue will be helpful in guiding the college decision-making process for maintaining the currency and relevancy of our equipment, instruction and facilities,” said Barbara Tansey, BCCC president. “Several new program ideas were introduced in the discussion with the 30 participants.”

North Carolina University’s Institute for Emerging Issues chose BCCC to host the community forum, which covered the links between the area’s educational opportunities and the needs of local manufacturers.

Diane Cherry, environments policy manager at the institute, led the discussion. She gave an overview of previous community forums held statewide.

Cherry’s presentation included two videos featuring North Carolina companies that survived the economic downturn and are now thriving because of collaboration among the companies, government agencies and community colleges.

Lindsey Crisp, president and CEO of Carver Machine Works, said forums like Wednesday’s forum were a great opportunity.

“It helps educators understand what is needed by industry and helps industry understand the challenges educators face,” he said.

He introduced his company’s needs and challenges to the group. He said the company is looking to employ people with a general knowledge of machinery, familiar with the work environment and able to think critically.

Crisp said Carver Machine Works worked hard to build a relationship with Beaufort County Community College and establish a pipeline of skilled workers for the company to employ.

“We’ve worked with Beaufort very closely and it’s been effective,” he said.

All registered participants were provided with a set of questions several days before the Forum, with an overall challenge statement: “How can communities better connect local education systems and manufacturers?” Ideas presented included starting the awareness process early in the education process, leaning on existing agencies; creating more apprenticeship and interning opportunities and greater collaboration among industrial neighbors.

Rod Gurganus, Beaufort County’s Cooperative Extension Service director, recommended making the forum the launching point of their efforts.

“Form a task force,” he said, “a small group to get together and drive this thing home.”

Tim Baynes, director of Mid-East Commission, said Beaufort County has alliances like the ones discussed already in place.

“This was confirmation of what we’re already doing and is what we need to continue to be doing down the road,” he said.

Tim Barrett, plant manager of Coeur, said he learned a lot about those alliances.

“It was good to hear about all of the resources, what’s already available that we can take advantage of,” Barrett said.

Stacey Gerard with Beaufort County Schools said she found the forum interesting and was inspired by the discussion.

“You always have to have change and improvement,” she said. “And I thought of several things Beaufort County can improve.”