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Officials: Hub, training programs in sync
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Dr. Angeline Godwin (left) and Sen. William Wampler discuss how an advanced manufacturing hub in North Carolina will complement local workforce training programs.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -

An advanced manufacturing research hub to be established in North Carolina will complement local programs designed to prepare workers for 21st century industrial jobs, according to two officials involved in the local programs.

President Barack Obama last week announced plans to fund at least three such hubs to enable universities and companies to work together to invent, design and manufacture new products. The first hub will be at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, he said.

Educational programs in high-tech manufacturing also are evolving at the New College Institute (NCI). Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) is feeding students into those programs.

PHCC President Angeline Godwin said the Raleigh hub will not be competition for the NCI-PHCC collaboration because it will be focused on research, whereas the local programs are focused on providing people with skills training.

But “our being two hours away from one (of the hubs) is a positive” that could help Henry County and Martinsville attract manufacturers, she said.

According to Godwin, companies that already are here or that locate in the area could tap into research done at the hub and perhaps send employees there to help do it.

There also could be opportunities for local students to travel to N.C. State to help with the research, which would add to their advanced manufacturing skills, she indicated.

Collaborations are “not limited by state lines,” Godwin said.

NCI Executive Director William Wampler said he thinks the hub will be a national model showing “that a trained workforce is essential to meet the needs of existing manufacturing employers and prospective employers who are considering an expansion or a new line of manufacturing.”

For example, Wampler said, about six years ago, Rolls-Royce invested in establishing a jet engine manufacturing facility near Petersburg.

“There is a very strong pattern of downstream supply chain that will follow major investments such as Rolls-Royce,” he said. Specifically, the investment Rolls-Royce made also helped other Petersburg-area manufacturers that supply components the company needs to make its products.

“Not too far from Martinsville,” Wampler said, “we see a similar model” with HondaJet, a light business jet maker, and TIMCO, an aviation maintenance company, near the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, N.C.

Godwin mentioned that Rolls-Royce is adjacent to the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), a research center that, according to its website, bridges a gap between university research and companies’ product development efforts. She said she envisions the hub at N.C. State being much like CCAM.

“The question that we all are asking, in academia, government and business,” Wampler said, “is can a workforce be trained on a consistent basis to meet the highly skilled needs of these manufacturers?”

The Henry County-Martinsville area already has tapped into some of the downstream supply chain for the aerospace industry, Wampler said. For example, RTI International Metals manufactures titanium that is sold to aerospace companies such as Rolls-Royce and aircraft manufacturer Airbus, he pointed out.

The next question, he said, is “How much more downstream supply chain will we be able to capture?”

“Industry tells us that depends upon how many students graduate with the relevant certifications, credentials and/or degrees,” Wampler said. “One illustration would suggest that for every 50 students who graduate, you should be able to attract a company that supports ... that aerospace downstream supply chain.”

For NCI to be successful, Wampler said, PHCC must be successful, and for PHCC to be successful, the public schools must produce graduates who “have the necessary prerequisites in math that support the certificates, credentials and degrees that industry requires.”

“Whether these graduates go to work for an aerospace company or a Commonwealth Laminating or an Eastman, there is commonality in the skill sets,” he said.

 

 
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