Rockingham County Becomes ACT® Work Ready Community

During the Board of Commissioners August meeting, Rockingham County announced it has met all criteria to become a certified ACT Work Ready Community, demonstrating its commitment to developing a strong workforce pipeline, desirable to employers, economic developers and current and future citizens of the county.  It becomes the third Piedmont Triad County to achieve this national certification.

The ACT® Work Ready Communities (ACT® WRC) initiative empowers states, regions and counties with data, processes and tools that drive economic growth by identifying skills gaps and quantifying the skill level of their workforce. Participants leverage the ACT® WorkKeys® National Career Readiness Certificate® (ACT® WorkKeys® NCRC®) to measure and close skills gaps and build common frameworks that link, align and match their workforce development efforts.

Rockingham County leaders began working towards becoming an ACT Work Ready Certified Community in January 2016.  To begin the certification process, Rockingham County leaders attended the ACT Work Ready Communities Boot Camp, an executive leadership and training program designed and led by ACT to initiate, deploy, and drive carefully tailored efforts to improve the county’s work readiness. Leaders met with local employers, policymakers, educators and economic developers to establish goals and build a sustainable WRC model to fit community needs.

“We are extremely proud of our Rockingham County team for working so diligently the last two and half years to achieve this goal,” said Kevin Berger, chairman of the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners.  “This certification demonstrates our commitment to developing a strong workforce pipeline and will go a long way toward building a more skilled workforce. Ultimately, this will give us an edge in our job recruitment efforts.”

“Congratulations to Rockingham County for becoming an ACT Work Ready Community, and joining a growing list of counties dedicated to building a robust workforce,” said ACT Regional Manager of Workforce Initiatives, Tony Garife. “The efforts of the county leadership to achieve WRC certification will provide the community with a tremendous economic development advantage and help it stand out for its workforce development efforts.”

The Commissioners also recognized two of Rockingham County’s key leaders who were instrumental in the process to become an ACT Work Ready Certified Community:  Mr. Ken Allen, assistant director of the Rockingham County Center for Economic Development, Small Business & Tourism and Ms. Sharon Galloway, director of Human Resource Development/CRC for Rockingham Community College.

For more information on this initiative, go to and view all of ACT’s workforce solutions at

About ACT

ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa, ACT is trusted as a leader in college and career readiness, providing high-quality assessments grounded in nearly 60 years of research. ACT offers a uniquely integrated set of solutions designed to provide personalized insights that help individuals succeed from elementary school through career. Visit to learn more.

Inaugural Group of Students Completes Apprenticeship Program

From RockinghamNOW
by Susie C. Spear

Omar Rodriguez, left, and Andrea Zarate sign apprenticeship paperwork with Amcor Specialty Cartons of Reidsville.

First class finishes RockATOP apprenticeship program

WENTWORTH – Jordan Dawson has literally laid a brick foundation for her future.

She is among 17 Rockingham County high school graduates and rising seniors who this summer have completed two college courses at Rockingham Community College and six-week pre-apprenticeships with local manufacturers as part of the county’s new RockATOP program. Dawson was matched with Pine Hall Brick in the western part of the county where “the company made me feel I’m a part of their family” and she learned the art of brick making from start to finish.

The students from this inaugural RockATOP class joined with their parents and school officials Tuesday night at RCC to celebrate their achievements and signed agreements of intention to continue work with their sponsoring corporations for three to four more years.

Beyond that, the program will see the students through a cost-free associate’s degree in manufacturing technology from RCC, as well as an opportunity to concurrently earn a prestigious work credential – a journeyman certificate.
RockATOP, which stands for Rockingham Apprenticeship, Technical Opportunities Partnership, seeks to get the county’s kids ready for the talent-starved skilled labor job market, explained Lydia Craddock, career counselor for the program.

Work-based learning is a great benefit to the county’s youth, explained the evening’s keynote speaker Dr. Pamela Howze, director of Work Based Learning for the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“There are 350,000 open jobs in manufacturing in North Carolina, and that’s a pretty significant skills shortage,” Howze told the group of grads and their families, explaining that with apprentice credentials students stand to earn an average salary of $50,000.

The Durham-based Howze summoned applause from parents, noting that RockATOP participants will earn a two- or
four-year degree and get paid throughout their program while apprenticing with manufacturers. “You’ll graduate debt-free.”

The apprenticeship program is the right way for schools to partner with industry, County Commissioner Mark Richardson told the group. “The customer of the school system is the employer.”

Local manufacturers are owed a debt of gratitude for their eagerness to take part in the program, said Dr. Kenneth Scott, CTE director for Rockingham County Schools. Business leaders “stepped up and said ‘Yeah, we want to give this a try.’ We’re here one year later to send these young people off to work in style.” Participating county industries include Amcor Specialty Cartons, ABCO Automations, MSI (Machine Specialty, Inc.) and Smith-Carolina, as well as Pine Hall Brick.

Proudly pulling on his MSI ballcap, Gabriel Johnson, a senior at Dalton McMichael High School, enjoyed post-signing ceremony refreshments with his family. The experience will “help me become a better engineer so I can provide more for a future family,” he said.

For Erik Rivera-Yoc, a graduate of Morehead High School, his commitment to ABCO Automations makes him feel more mature, he said, smiling and sporting an embroidered company work shirt and ball cap.

“This is a big deal,” Richardson said from the podium. “It may direct the rest of your life. It’s gonna give you skills you’ll use for the rest of your life.”

For apprentice employer and manufacturer of industrial concrete buffers, Rob Smith of Smith-Carolina considers his student Daniel Pinnix, a recent graduate of Rockingham County High School, a blessing. “And it’s an opportunity to have a great career in Rockingham County. I’ve got him for four more years!”

Craddock explained that the program is open not only to county school system students, but also to home schooled and private school rising seniors and graduates. Participating students will have rigorous schedules with rising seniors attending their respective high schools in the mornings and working at assigned corporations in the afternoons. High school graduates will work for sponsoring companies four days per week and attend RCC classes one day weekly. For more information on the program, call Craddock at 336-349-6361.