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NCI named Center of Excellence
Tobacco commission awards designation and $2 million grant
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William Wampler

Sunday, May 25, 2014

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

The New College Institute (NCI) has been awarded a Center of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing designation and $2 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

The designation and funds will provide both operating support and advanced manufacturing equipment for training, which in turn should help create new jobs and attract capital investment to the region, according to NCI Executive Director William Wampler.

The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) in South Boston also received the designation and grant, and a similar center — probably one in Southwest Virginia — is expected to receive the same in the future, Wampler said Friday.

Each Center of Excellence will receive an initial grant of $2 million, and “it is anticipated there will be more for operating and equipment over the next 36 months,” he said.

Centers for Excellence are designed to train 70 to 80 students a year in the areas of precision machining, welding and industrial mechanics, which are “exactly aligned with our efforts,” Wampler said.

A partnership of NCI, Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC), Danville Community College (DCC) and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville is involved, Wampler said.

The community colleges will provide the “foundational course work” in precision machining, welding and industrial mechanics, he said. For instance, PHCC has an excellent welding program and DCC has an excellent precision machining program, Wampler said, calling the Danville program “world class.”

“We will build on the strengths, the best of all, and cross-train each other to give students the best exposure to world class skill sets,” he said.

“After students finish with those courses, they will come to NCI” and work in its high bay space to learn advanced manufacturing skills and earn industry certifications “to validate their workforce capabilities,” Wampler said.

Potential students could be high school students in dual enrollment programs, college students or existing industry employees seeking additional certifications, he said.

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research adds a research component to NCI’s Center of Excellence, and it works with groups from K-12 education through doctoral programs, Wampler said. “Everybody has a touch at different levels,” he added.

The program is similar to the recently announced Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing. However, Wampler said the new program targets three industry segments: A downstream supply chain that provides specific components for the aerospace industry, a downstream supply chain for heavy machinery and a downstream supply chain for the automotive industry.

Those three areas use common skill sets, and about 80 percent of those skills for the aerospace industry also apply to the performance film industry, he said.

A 2012 report by Boston Consulting Group found that the tobacco region of Virginia has the opportunity to develop an advanced manufacturing hub focused on aerospace, automotive and heavy machinery, according to Wampler and Virginiabusiness.com. The group estimated there will be an additional 6,840 job openings in manufacturing by 2017, and to meet that demand, the region needs to train 1,045 medium skilled workers, Virginiabusiness.com reported.

Welders, machinists and industrial maintenance mechanics will be in the greatest demand, it added.

That study was funded by the tobacco commission and conducted through the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) in Disputanta, near Petersburg, and Rolls-Royce, Wampler said. Armed with the study’s findings, CCAM hired two people to recruit industries in related supply chains to the region.

The first such recruit was the United Kingdom-based Kilgour Industries Ltd., which announced in February it will build a plant in Henry County, Wampler said. Kilgour specializes in machining and treating aerospace components, a company official said.

“What we learned from Kilgour is countries from around the globe are looking for places to expand their business. Kilgour chose Martinsville-Henry County because they believed we would be able to produce the workforce critical to their success, and we as a region should now be in a competitive posture to secure European prospects Nos. 2, 3 and 4,” Wampler said.

Through CCAM, “Rolls-Royce and others will use their market power to (encourage) their supply chain to look at Southern Virginia. We’re working to create the workforce, and CCAM can point to Centers of Excellence” to show how, Wampler said.

The Center for Excellence designation will “help attract employers, generate jobs and capital investment,” he said. “What’s important for the student is that they will have the opportunity not just to have a job, but to have a career.”

The center designation was a more than two-year competitive process, Wampler said. He added that NCI’s position was strengthened by The Harvest Foundation’s continued support for workforce training and NCI’s new building.

He also praised the efforts of Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, and Butch Hamlet of Henry County, both members of the tobacco commission, and said the project is “consistent with the efforts of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.”

 

 
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