Cary News

Wake Tech’s specialized programs a boon for economy

Unhooking and twisting wires John Deere Turf Care lab technicians try to figure out how to make the green light on their circuit panel light up.

The instructor is from Wake Technical Community College. But, the class isn’t being held at Wake Tech’s campus. It’s being held at John Deere. And, the curriculum was developed specifically for the company, teaching lab technicians how to troubleshoot electrical wiring and circuits. A skill they need to have in order to make sure John Deere machines are working properly.

On-site employee customized training is one of many services the college offers to new and existing businesses. Wake Technical Community College’s ability to adapt to the workforce needs of industries has proven to a be a boon in state recruiting efforts. And, now Fuquay-Varina is tapping into that resource for its own economic development needs.

The Fuquay-Varina Economic Development Commission enlarged its board from seven to nine in February in order to include a representative from Wake Tech and a representative from the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

“My focus with the EDC was how to further expand our board to further gain resources,” said EDC Executive Director Jim Seymour. “Two of the biggest players in the area are Wake County and Wake Tech.”

Since February, Seymour said he has seen a lot more interest from businesses asking about seminars and workshops, particularly from small businesses. Some of those small business with employees of nine or less may thought their small size may have not met the college’s class size limits.

But the partnership with the EDC opens up some options, Seymour said.

“It will not only help us to attract businesses, it also helps existing businesses,” Seymour said about the partnership. “We’re putting together real programs that deal with financial assistance, workforce development and technical business operations assistance.”

He said the financial assistance would be non-monetary but focus on leveraging assets.

“It could mean help identifying and connecting with markets to better sell their products,” Seymour said.

Wake Tech helped the N.C. Department of Commerce recruit several companies in the past year. Aerocrine, a medical technology company, brought 45 jobs to Morrisville. The LORD Corporation, an adhesive and coating technology company, expanded bringing 117 jobs to Cary and spending $20 million in capital investments. Sequenom, a molecular diagnostics clinical laboratory, promised 242 jobs and a capital investment of $18.7 million at Research Triangle Park.

“Companies come to North Carolina in part because of our highly skilled workforce,” said spokesman Josh Ellis, with the N.C. Department of Commerce. “Wake Technical Community College, along with the other campuses in the N.C. Community College System, provide opportunities for customized job training programs that can meet those companies’ needs.”

Wake Technical Community College has already helped area businesses in other ways. The college provided a worksite for John Deere employees while the Fuquay-Varina facility was under construction. When the gaming industry approached the college in the early 2000s about the lack of trained employees, Wake Tech created a simulation and gaming program. In 2006, its first year, the program had 24 students. The number jumped to 1,000 in the fall of 2011, said Wake Tech President Stephen Scott.

Wake Tech’s Corporate and Professional Trainer Tim Lucas said he was excited to join the board. And said he saw a lot of opportunities to help.

“When you think of economic development you think of strengthening a company and that means job force,” Lucas said. “I’m helping employees of companies become more knowledgeable. I’m enhancing skill sets. That means a person that will help the company improve its bottom line.”

But Lucas does more than train workers. He’s a business ambassador as well.

When Lucas launched the college’s Lean Six Sigma Green Belt program – which trains people to find business efficiencies – Lucas turned to an area company for his software needs: Cary-based SAS.

Lucas said he uses SAS’ JMP statistical analysis software in his class to review data.

“I’m actually promoting SAS software to other companies I’m helping,” Lucas said. “ I say to them, here’s a company that can help you with your data analysis that can truly impact their bottom line.”

With 25 years experience in the corporate sector Lucas said he also offered to help Fuquay-Varina speak to interested businesses.

“I used to be plant manager,” Lucas said. “And those are the types of industries we are trying to attract. I know how to talk the language.”