Golden LEAF funds BCCC boat-manufacturing program

Published 5:05 pm Thursday, June 4, 2020

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With the many waterways surrounding the county, there’s an abundant need for boat manufacturing experience in Beaufort County. Beaufort County Community College has addressed that need with the help of the Golden LEAF Foundation, which awarded BCCC with a $200,000 grant to be used to start a new boat manufacturing program.

In 1999, the North Carolina legislature created the nonprofit Golden LEAF Foundation to administer one-half of North Carolina’s share of the Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers, according to Golden LEAF’s website. The mission of the foundation is to create meaningful and lasting economic impact on rural, tobacco-dependent and economically distressed communities by creating more jobs and opportunities for growth and prosperity throughout the state.

According to Beaufort County’s North Carolina Rep. Keith Kidwell, there are nine boat-building facilities in Beaufort County that are in need of experienced workers.

“A couple of years ago, I was out talking to the CEO of Iconic Marine, and he told me, ‘I have 72 jobs I need to fill right now, but I can’t fill them because the people I need don’t have any education in what we’re doing,’” Kidwell said.

Afterward, Kidwell said he had a conversation with BCCC President David Loope, and they discovered they would need help with the funding for a program to address those needs. They put in an application for a Golden LEAF grant, which was approved Thursday.

“Here’s the beauty of it: We’ve got all these boat jobs with more coming, and now we have a school that’s actually going to teach people how to do it. So, we’ve put together the entire circle together that was needed, so we can train people for actual required jobs in the area,” Kidwell said. “We might’ve lost some jobs over the years, but now we have a methodology of a pipeline that puts us back to where we can educate people and send them right out to a job. That’s wonderful.”

The new program will begin next year, according to Loope.

“We requested and received confirmation that we had been awarded the $200,000 grant from Golden LEAF foundation that will subsidize our new boat-building academic program. That program will start in January of 2021,” Loope said. “The money will go towards the equipment needed for the program and to help pay the salary in the first year for the faculty member that will be managing the program.”

Loope said he was appreciative of Golden LEAF for their help with funding throughout the years.

“(Golden LEAF) has helped fund us in the past, in particular for our welding program, our mechanical engineering program and truck-driving program. So, this is a great new opportunity for them to help with workforce development and a major new area for Beaufort County and for eastern North Carolina in the boat-building industries,” Loope said. “This will enable us to be able to provide workforce-preparation development related to the work that all these companies do.”

BCCC already offered classes relating to the coursework that would be involved with boat manufacturing, such as advanced manufacturing, welding and electrical engineering technology, but now they will have an entire program dedicated to boat manufacturing, which will provide more job opportunities for students after completing the program, according to Loope.