Career & Technical Education (CTE): A new “go-to” for careers
Under the keen eyes of more than seventy citizens, educators, government officials and students, County Manager, Lance Metzler officially declared February as National Career and Technical Education Month. The ceremony was held on the campus of Rockingham Community College (RCC).
Dr. Mark Kinlaw, Rockingham Community College president, graciously welcomed the assembled crowd to the campus while explaining the many Career and Technical Education offerings that are available through RCC. Career and Technical Education is a term applied to programs that specialize in skilled trades, applied sciences, modern technologies and career preparation. These programs range from Health Science to Cosmetology and Fire Fighting to Advanced Manufacturing and more.
Rockingham County Schools CTE Director, Dr. Kenneth Scott, spoke briefly about how the school system and the community college work hand in hand to prepare individuals for technical careers that result in meaningful and high paying jobs in the local community. Students can begin transitioning from high school CTE courses to community college courses while still in high school.
County Manager Metzler then spoke to the fact that our economy is requiring an increasingly sophisticated and well trained work force as technology continues to impact every aspect of life. He then went on to declare the month of February as National CTE Month and encouraged citizenry to acquaint themselves with the many CTE opportunities within the community.
One of the highlights of the short ceremony was when Commissioner Mark Richardson spoke about the importance of apprenticeship programs for our students. Richardson then went on to congratulate thirty Rockingham County High School students who were beginning the third round of interviews and work skill demonstrations to vie for apprenticeship slots with local companies.
More than 70 individuals were present for the ceremony, including industry representatives from Pine Hall Brick, Smith Carolina, Keystone Foods, Machine Specialties, Inc. and ABCO.
For more information about CTE programs at RCC, contact Jennifer Lester at 336.342.4261. For information about CTE programs in Rockingham County Schools, contact Beth Smith with the school system at 336.627.2600.
February 9, 2018
By Joe Dexter
County leaders are looking to reset a new economic development vision for citizens and businesses by focusing their approach on workforce development.
Their first major step in the process is a potential $15 million investment into a new Center for Workforce Development on the campus of Rockingham Community College – possibly funded by revenue collected through a quarter-cent local option sales tax increase, which returns to county ballots on May 8.
After hearing a presentation led by Eden Economic Development Director Mike Dougherty and RCC President Mark Kinlaw on Monday, the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to move forward with a resolution that places the referendum on the upcoming primary ballot.
The new RCC Workforce Development Center would replace the college’s industrial technologies buildings that were built in the 60s and 70s.
The new center would potentially house all industrial tech programs, advanced manufacturing training, customized industry and corporate training space.
It would also feature new machinery and equipment, as well as the development of vocational and technical training that leads to fast track and degree programs.
The tax increase, which would raise the current sales tax rate from 6.75 to 7 percent, heads to the Rockingham County ballots for the fourth time in 10 years.
The additional revenue source would increase the tax on purchases made in the county for residents and visitors alike – with unprepared food, gasoline and prescription drugs being exempt from the tax.
Currently, 31 of the state’s 100 counties have implemented the local option sales tax through the vote of their constituency.
One of those is Randolph County, which opened the Randolph Gene Haas Computer-Integrated Machining Institute in 2016 with revenue collected from the tax.
The $7.7 million renovation project doubled the size of Randolph Community College’s machining program, as well as its enrollment.
The college has also built a cosmetology center with revenues from the tax. They also have a future goal of building a health science facility.
Kinlaw said RCC has seen growth by building facilities incoming students want and need.
Just over a year ago, officials opened a $3.8 million simulated hospital in the N. Jerry Owens Jr. Health Sciences Building.
Since then, the school has seen a 64 percent enrollment growth in both associate degree nursing and practical nursing diploma programs.
Supporters see a similar need in workforce development, where RCC cannot compete with outdated facilities and equipment.
Kinlaw and Dougherty noted that eight surrounding counties have either recently opened or are building advanced technology or manufacturing centers.
Both believe that companies and students will go elsewhere if Rockingham County doesn’t get ahead of the curve.
If voted for, the increase is projected to produce $1.8 million in revenue during the 2019-20 fiscal year. Officials anticipate the revenue percentage to grow by 2 percent each year.
According to county officials, it would take a 2.41 cent property tax increase to match the same revenue stream totals.
RCC estimates that design and approval of the facility would take approximately 1 1/2 years.
The service debt of the project would be the responsibility of the county.
What Voters will see on Voting Day
When voters head to the polls, they will be presented with for and against fill-in options in regards to the local sales and use tax at the rate of .25 percent, in addition to all other state and local sales and use taxes.
Despite an ability to pass a resolution explaining the designation of revenues collected, which the county government has done, the sales tax is not restricted or earmarked and can be used for any county allowed use, according to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.
Commissioner Keith Mabe, who was the lone no vote on Monday, has said publicly that he believes that to be an issue. The RCC alumnus supports a new Workforce Development Center, but he said he didn’t agree with the sales tax approach.
“You can sell it whatever you want to sell it, you can call it whatever you want to call it, but it’s two words there that people in this county don’t like and apparently a lot of people don’t like it because it wouldn’t have failed 3 to 1 the last two times at bat,” Mabe said.
The Eden resident made it clear that he preferred financing the workforce development center through a voter approved bond and that increasing property tax is a better option than sales tax.“Those that own a $35,000 house or a $40,000 house are going to pay less than the rich and famous out in Winsome Forest and other places that has $250 and $300,000 houses,” said Mabe.
He added the people hurt most by the increase would be seniors, veterans, and lower income residents.
Commissioner Mark Richardson countered that the greatest impact on seniors would be trying to finance the project through an ad-valorem tax increase.
“We dilute the pool paying for this significantly by turning it over to a quarter cent and it has the advantage of some flexibility in the future, again dedicated to the college providing a physical plan that we can see and an opportunity to see our citizens not only get hired, but hired in better paying jobs that will improve their quality of life,” Richardson said. “Enhance the quality of life for us, and our tax base will go up.”
Meanwhile, supporters of the bipartisan tax increase, which has support from both local political parties, contend that revenue collected would help improve the 56.7 percent labor force participation in the county.
County officials have declared through the resolution that revenues would not only go to the new workforce center, but also to other future capital needs, new programs, state-of-the-art training and equipment and initiatives in recruitment and retention of a trained and skilled workforce.
Doughterty told the board that local business and industry continue to find it difficult to find workers with a manufacturing experience, soft skill, reliability and ambition.
He said that county businesses are dealing with a 40 percent employee turnover rate.
The comment led Commissioner Craig Travis to question if the current workforce would accept training and new workforce development tactics, considering they don’t want to go to work now.
Dougherty answered by saying the RCC Workforce development center isn’t the solution to all workforce development issues locally and that getting into the local school system to talk to children about what opportunities are available and what is required to succeed in those opportunities.
“That’s exactly what I wanted to hear you say and I wanted that out there in the open,” said Travis. “Just what RCC might be doing, it just can’t stop there. We got to get inside these schools and create an atmosphere and retrain work ethics.”
If voted for, the tax referendum would not be removed unless commissioners return the issue back to the voters by placing it back on the ballot.
The ¼ penny sales tax increase does not have a time-period limit if approved by voters.
However, the county board is not obligated to levy the tax, even with a majority vote.