Thomas Stith III, president of the North Carolina Community College System, visited South Piedmont Community College’s Tyson Family Center for Technology on October 1, and met with Dr. Maria Pharr, president of SPCC, as well as Board members, faculty, staff, and students. Stith, who became NCCCS president in January 2021, has been visiting several of the “Great 58” North Carolina community colleges throughout the year.
During the visit, South Piedmont had the opportunity to update President Stith on the value the college brings to the community, including the successful customized training programs and apprenticeships cultivated through partnerships with local businesses and industries.
According to Julie Laytham, economic and workforce development specialist at SPCC, the customized training programs have seen an increase in enrollment during the pandemic. She contributes this increase to early engagement with businesses, adapting quickly to industry needs, and the collaboration between partners.
“The model you’re using here is showing an increase when that hasn’t been the trend,” said Stith. “Your best practices could be used by other colleges and scaled to maximize efforts even in the midst of a global pandemic,” he added.
Stith toured the machining lab and was able to interact with students and graduates of the program who are now employed at Greiner Bio-One and Berry Global.
“The best employees we have come from this apprenticeship program,” said Chris Wallace of Greiner. “Our company has seen how good it is, and it creates a different atmosphere where our employees want to help each other succeed.”
The highlight of the tour was when Stith was able to engage in experiences alongside the students. He donned welding attire and had a quick lesson from welding instructor, Michael Scott, before fabricating metal using arc welding techniques. The visit concluded with a virtual reality experience in the heavy equipment operators simulation lab where President Stith was able to simulate the operation of an excavator.
Prior to his visit to South Piedmont, President Stith spent the morning talking with local leaders about manufacturing partnerships at the Manufacturing Celebration Breakfast hosted by the Union County Chamber of Commerce for “Make It In Union County.”