Rockingham County celebrates February as Career and Technical Education Month
Rockingham Community College Press Release – Feb. 5, 2019
High school, college and industry leaders gathered with 27 high school students on Monday afternoon, Feb. 4 at Rockingham Community College to kick off the second year of RockATOP – the Rockingham Apprenticeship and Technical Opportunities Partnership.
To start things off, County Manager Lance Metzler proclaimed February as Career and Technical Education Month.
He emphasized three things going on in Rockingham County that can be helped by CTE: local students looking for hands-on technical careers but who don’t yet have the training; local companies looking for such trained employees; and local hands-on technical training available through high schools and RCC.
“Putting all these things together – our students, industries and educational resources – could lead to the most positive changes in Rockingham County,” Metzler said.
Rockingham Community College President Dr. Mark Kinlaw agreed.
“We know there are lot of good jobs … that all revolve around Career and Technical Education training,” he said. “But the problem is, we don’t have enough people going into Career and Technical Education fields to fill those jobs that are out there. We want to emphasize the importance of these professions and how well people can do by entering these fields. There is good money to be made, very good careers throughout the State of North Carolina.”
Kinlaw said the highly skilled fields are not easy, and many require high-level math.
“Many of these fields require you to use your hands, they are more trade-oriented, but they are also very difficult. We want people to understand that to get into these fields, it takes high-level training … but the payoff on the other side is extremely good,” he said.
“If last year’s cohort (of RockATOP graduates) does what we anticipate in about three years and goes to work for various industries, those 18 folks should be earning about $1 million,” said Rockingham County Commissioner Mark Richardson. “And that’s not only $1 million in their pockets, it’s beneficially spent money for the industries that have sponsored us up front and it’s a million bucks for the county.”
Dr. Rodney Shotwell, superintendent of Rockingham County Schools, has a personal connection to technical training, and said, “To me, CTE has a really strong place in my heart.”
Shotwell said CTE made a huge difference in the life of his own brother, who oversees remodeling for a company with restaurants across 15 states.
“It all started with carpentry in the 10th grade. What we do in high school and at the community college … there are so many things out there that you are able to do by going through Career and Technical Education,” he said.
Turning to the 27 students who are candidates for apprenticeships through this year’s RockATOP program, Shotwell said, “Most businesses, after they talked about (last year’s apprenticeships), if they could do that for their businesses, they could get it right every time. You guys, it’s going to be a long session for you, but the end product is so worth it.”
Shotwell noted the RockATOP program is getting bigger and expanding.
“I think it’s a wonderful program to have here in Rockingham County and it really puts us on the map,” he said.
Commissioner Richardson recalled RockATOP as a concept four years ago, and thanked the commercial, industrial and business enterprises for their support and sponsorship.
In fact, the number of companies involved in RockATOP has doubled over last year, from five to 10. Pine Hall Brick, Smith-Carolina, Keystone Foods, Machine Specialties Inc. and Abco Automation have now been joined by Amcor, Bridgestone, Frontier Spinning Mills, Ruger Firearms, and Wieland Copper Products.
Hunter Martin went through RockATOP last year.
“I’ve always been somebody who likes to learn hands-on, and I always felt that was the way I could learn the most, instead of the conventional sitting in a classroom reading from a textbook. This is a great program – I can learn about one thing at school and then go to work and put my hands on it and actually do that thing … it’s a much better way to absorb information,” he said.
“I’m with Machine Specialties and anybody that’s there, that you need any type of help from, they’re willing to teach you everything they know,” Martin said. “These companies need help. There are plenty of older workers out there who are eager to share with us, so we can pick up all the things that they’ve learned over the years and put them into play.”
CTE is a term applied to programs that specialize in skilled trades, applied sciences, modern technologies and career preparation, according to Lydia Craddock, career counselor with the apprenticeship program at Rockingham County Schools. The programs range from health science and cosmetology to firefighting and advanced manufacturing, and more.
The apprenticeship allows the student to work for a company under supervision while also working on an associate’s degree at RCC, debt free. Students can transition from high school CTE courses to RCC courses while still in high school.
According to Dr. Kinlaw, there is a lot going across the state as community colleges emphasize serving the workforce – and the North Carolina Community College system is requesting additional funds from the legislature.
“There’s some good momentum going on at the state level to help us promote and fund career and technical fields at (RCC),” he said.
For Rockingham County Schools CTE Director Dr. Kenneth Scott, workforce is always a fast topic of conversation in the community.
“One of the things I hear from just about every human resource director, every business owner that I talk to in our county and in our region, is that they are in dire need of good, talented young people that work hard … have technical skills … that show up to work on time … that listen to instruction …,” he said.
“You know what I always say? That’s great, because we’ve got young people, in Rockingham County schools and at Rockingham Community College,” Scott continued.
“Our businesses need good, young people, and our young people need good opportunities. And with RockATOP, we’ve got both,” Scott said.
February 05, 2019