Stith discusses workforce, economic development with BCCC leaders

Published 11:58 am Sunday, November 7, 2021

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North Carolina Community College System president Thomas Stith III learned about the new developments happening at Beaufort County Community College during a tour of the campus Friday morning.

BCCC President David Loope and other officials updated Stith on everything from the new Beaufort Promise program to the college’s new Public Safety Training Complex. Conversations also involved the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, BCCC’s role in economic development throughout the region, the status of the entire community college system, and current legislative topics that will affect community colleges, among other things.

“We are discussing the strong engagement with business and industry here with Beaufort Community College, and the strong business partners in this part of North Carolina,” Stith said. “Not only are we the job engine for North Carolina, preparing that next generation of workforce, it’s very important for us to be closely aligned —whether it’s the boatbuilding industry here, strong tourism here in Beaufort County, and we’re just discussing the ways the community college is meeting the needs of business and industry.”

One of the major points Stith and Loope discussed was the community college system’s ongoing efforts to push for more funding from the state. They said more funding will improve operations and will also help the college recruit and retain employees by offering higher salaries. Loope said retention has been an issue in some areas.

“We’re working very closely with our state legislature through the budget process to ensure that all community colleges — we have 58 great community colleges across the state — it’s important to have the financial resources to support the great work that is taking place.” Stith said.

Stith toured the new Public Safety Training Complex, which includes the state’s largest emergency vehicle driving pad, a fire-training tower, a simulation lab for emergency medical technicians, and training emergency vehicles. He walked through the fire-training tower and spent a few minutes in the driver’s seat of the school’s firetruck.

Stith has served as president of the North Carolina Community College System since Jan. 11, 2021. He previously served as district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration and chief of staff to former Gov. Pat McCrory from 2013 to 2017.

”We have to play a leadership role not only in workforce development; we need to be at the table in economic development, and be there with the folks who are right at the starting line for new businesses and new business ventures,” Loope told Stith.