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Burke Organizations Partner to Secure Rural Community Mobilization Grant

Numerous Burke County organizations partnered together this fall to create Project RENEW, which has received a Rural Community Mobilization grant from the NC Rural Center. The grant will be used to launch a Manufacturing Training Program at Western Piedmont Community College beginning in January 2012, which will connect unemployed and underemployed workers to full-time jobs and will build a more highly skilled workforce for manufacturing companies in Burke County. The Manufacturing Training Program will focus on machining positions, specifically material assemblers, manual machinists, CNC machinists and entry level production/process operators. “We are excited about this opportunity and feel honored to be named as a recipient for this grant,” said Scott Darnell, BDI President. “This provides added incentive and additional motivation for our team to address the gap that exists between those in our community seeking work and the employer seeking qualified labor.” The grant, made possible by investments from the N.C. General Assembly, the N.C. Department of Commerce and Wells Fargo, was highly competitive amongst North Carolina’s 85 rural counties. The Rural Center received 33 grant proposals representing over $2.5 million in funding requests. With just $725,000 in grant funds, Burke County was fortunate to be one of twelve projects awarded the grant. The various organizations that have partnered on Project RENEW and are collaborating to develop a workforce strategy include: Western Piedmont Community College, Burke County Employment Security Commission, Job Link Career Center, The Cognitive Connection, The Workforce Development Board and Burke Development, Inc. Professionals from these organizations, which all strive to place the unemployed and underemployed back to work, began meeting in October to address labor shortages in local manufacturing plants and found that there is an insufficient number of skilled workers in Burke County to fill the current job openings at these facilities. “We have identified a shortage of manufacturing technicians in and around Burke County to fill job openings at our local plants,” said Lee Kiser, Dean of Continuing Education at Western Piedmont. “Through this program, we hope to address this need.” Seven Burke County manufacturing companies have made a commitment to partner on the project. They will aid in the development of the Manufacturing Training Program to ensure it meets their requirements for technical skills and that it also prepares potential workers in the areas of soft skills that make them good employees. These seven companies have also agreed to consider the completion of the program as a preferred credential for those who apply for permanent positions at their facilities. They are: Caterpillar, Continental Teves, BSN-Medical, Sypris Technologies, Master WorkHolding, Siegwerk and American Roller Bearing. Other companies that might be interested in participating can contact Nick Saturno at (828) 448-6148. Western Piedmont and Burke Development, Inc. will begin conducting focus groups with these manufacturers in December to gather information and officials at Western Piedmont plan to have the training program in place for participants to start enrolling in January 2012. The initial project goal is to have at least 50 participants complete the 120 hour training program and to place a minimum of 22 graduates into full-time positions at a Burke County manufacturing company by the end of 2012. “The topic of ‘workforce’ is a key concern in many manufacturing companies in Burke County,” said BDI Project Manager Misti Humphries. “Burke County is most fortunate to have a strong corporate presence of manufacturing operations that provide stable work and good wages. In fact, we are seeing quite a bit of growth in this sector of manufacturing.” The target population who will benefit from the project will be dislocated workers, unemployed and underemployed individuals and economically distressed adults with a focus on recruiting those individuals who are currently working through Temporary Service Agencies in a manufacturing environment. The Cognitive Connection has identified an experienced Case Coordinator to start recruiting the first week in January and the Employment Security Commission/Job Link will provide office space and support for this Coordinator. In partnership with the Workforce Development Board, The Cognitive Connection will work with interested individuals who have a barrier to participating to ensure that those who want to pursue training are able to do so. Anyone interested in obtaining more information or registering for the program can call Nick Saturno at (828) 448-6148. The community partners chose the name RENEW, which stands for Re-Education a New Employable Workforce, because they wanted to stress the importance of retooling, re-educating and re-inventing the local workforce to match the attitudes found in local manufacturing companies, which have also had to ‘renew’ their operations in recent years to remain viable in today’s highly competitive environment. The project is an excellent example of how various organizations in the community are joining together to combat some of the largest economic struggles facing Burke County. Receiving this grant shows how creating meaningful partnerships can result in success. When organizations are willing to work together there are greater opportunities to have a positive and lasting impact on the community. About Burke Development, Inc. Burke Development, Inc. (BDI) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization supported by private and public funding that is charged with accelerating economic growth in Burke County. BDI works with industry leaders, site selection consultants, government agencies and other entities to facilitate expansion strategies for existing businesses and recruit target industries to Burke County. For more information about BDI visit www.burkedevinc.com. About Western Piedmont Community College Western Piedmont Community College enrolls approximately 4,000 students annually in pursuit of college transfer degrees, two year associate degrees and diplomas. Western Piedmont received recognition for Exceptional Institutional Performance based on standards established by the North Carolina General Assembly. To learn more, visit www.wpcc.edu.


Burke Development Incorporated, BDI, is a nonprofit 501c3 organization supported by private and public funding that is charged with accelerating economic growth in Burke County. BDI works with industry leaders, site selection consultants, existing businesses, government agencies and other entities to promote growth, innovation and sustainability in Burke County. For more information about BDI visit www.BurkeDevInc.com.

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