Cape Fear Community College is in the process of expanding and adding several programs at its Burgaw campus to fuel the local workforce and provide the tools for people to get higher-paying jobs.
The college is able to double the capacity of its accelerated welding program curriculum and add new programs in Pender County with an expanding footprint at CFCC’s Burgaw Campus off Industrial Drive, said John Downing, vice president of CFCC’s Continuing Education division.
The continuing education division approaches economic development in three ways: through the college’s small business center, its state-funded customized training programs and workforce development programs, Downing said.
Several workforce development programs have been implemented at CFCC based on industry needs and to meet current and future job growth, he said.
The college is in the process of working on two warehouse buildings formerly owned by Burgaw-based Mojotone LLC, which has moved to the Pender Progress Industrial Park. Meanwhile, Pender County is expected to buy the buildings for $576,000.
“Pender County’s purchase of the former [Mojotone] buildings in Burgaw will enable CFCC to expand vocational and trade-related training opportunities for our local workforce. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with CFCC and Pender County Schools to help address the skilled labor gap that exists in our area,” Pender County Manager Chad McEwen said of the growing campus.
Growing the welding program there will fill workforce gaps more quickly, Downing said.
In addition, CFCC plans to add a six-month diesel mechanics program to the campus and an HVAC apprenticeship program.
The course length of the HVAC apprenticeship program has not been determined.
And a new three-week production technician training program is also in the works for Burgaw, to prepare people for entry-level jobs in a manufacturing plant, Downing said.
Many of these new courses are slated to start early next year.
In New Hanover County, the 10- week electrical lineworker program, based at CFCC’s North Campus, received a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration in September. The program started in mid-2018 and has had 144 graduates, with an estimated 98% job placement, Downing said.
But outside of the courses, CFCC’s Small Business Center in downtown Wilmington is also playing a role in economic growth for both New Hanover and Pender counties.
In the past fiscal year, the center served more than 200 prospective and existing small business owners in the two counties, and helped create 101 jobs and start 22 new businesses, Downing said.
“Some of these are contractors in the construction area. Some of these are farmers in Pender County,” he said.
In addition, the college’s customized training program is part of the economic development package that the state sets aside to attract new companies or allow existing companies to grow, he said.
Firms must qualify for the program and can receive two- to three-year instructional plans, he said. CFCC currently has nine approved programs.
“The job growth in those approved customized training programs over the next three years is 421 jobs,” Downing said.
The college also works with the local economic development agency, Wilmington Business Development, to help attract new companies to the area with the program.
“It’s a great tool for economic development to get these companies in here,” Downing said, “and [has] helped them to expand.”
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a recent change in John Downing's title.
Special Section: Rural Economy