Haywood Community College and Haywood County Schools was recently awarded a two-year, $193,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The purpose of the grant is to increase the number of machining and electronic technicians available to meet the skilled employment needs of area manufacturers. The project will create a new dual enrollment electronics engineering technician career pathway option for Haywood County high school students. The project will also recruit females into electronics engineering and the existing dual enrollment computer-integrated machining technician career pathways. 

“We are pleased that the National Science Foundation grant gives us the opportunity to partner with Haywood County Schools,” says Dr. Barbara Parker, HCC President. “Through the creation of these new technical pathways, we hope to increase job opportunities.”

There has been a decrease in the number of overall manufacturing jobs in traditional North Carolina manufacturing industries. The manufacturers in North Carolina today are higher value-added, more technologically advanced and competing in the global economy. A high percentage of the manufacturing workforce is nearing retirement and the rate at which students are graduating with the required technician skills is not sufficient to replace the retiring workers. 

Manufacturing is an important part of the economy in Haywood County and has the highest earnings per worker ($60,440) of all employment fields (Economic Modeling Specialists, 2012). The major manufacturing employers in Haywood County are Evergreen Packaging, Haywood Vocational Opportunities, Consolidated Metco, Sonoco Plastics, Giles Chemicals and Powell Industries. 

According to Dr. Deborah Porto, HCC Interim Executive Director of Workforce Development, “The sustainable pipeline for a supply of trained technicians for these jobs is a well-developed and maintained pipeline of students from the high schools, to the community colleges to local manufacturing employers.” 

The required number of technicians needed to meet the future needs for skilled technicians can only be met by increasing the pool of potential students. Attracting women into the skilled technician areas of computer-integrated machining and electronics engineering technology is one way to meet the need for increased numbers of technicians. 

HCC is partnering with the Haywood County School System, the Haywood County Economic Development Commission, and the Southwestern Commission Council of Government for the project. The college is also partnering with industry partners including Evergreen Industries, Baldor, Consolidated Metco, and Sonoco.

The goals of the program are to:  develop and implement an electronics engineering high school dual enrollment curriculum to enable completion of an electronics technician college certificate while in high school; create awareness among high school and college counselors, teachers and faculty, parents and students on the content of and career potential for electronics engineering technicians and computer-integrated machining technicians; initiate activities specifically designed to increase female participation in technician education programs leading to manufacturing jobs including summer camps for students and professional development for high school counselor and teachers; and increase the recruitment of both female and male high school students to dual enrollment community college career and technical programs in electronics engineering and computer-integrated machining. 

The creation of a close partnership between manufacturers, the community college and the high schools will provide a quick response to changing technology in manufacturing to ensure long term profitability.  The expansion of dual enrollment programs will provide students with new career options. Long term, the success of the proposed project will enable the development of additional technician dual enrollment programs and the creation of a model Career Academy for high school students that will be useful to other rural communities.  

For more information about the National Science Foundation grant or HCC’s Electronics Engineering and Computer-Integrated Machining programs, please call 627-4632.