For Immediate Release
February 4, 2014
CONTACT: Lisa Johnson,
Development Officer & External Relations
Release No: 04LJ-PR-2014
College of The Albemarle Receives State Grant – Part of NC Back-To-Work Initiative
Last June, after the Coast Guard contractor DRS Technologies in Elizabeth City, announced a massive layoff of 155 employees, faculty with College of The Albemarle’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education program began brainstorming ideas to help get those former employees back to work.
COA faculty realized that these displaced workers were mostly trained, retired military personnel with experience overhauling the aircraft at the Elizabeth City Coast Guard base who lacked the formal industry certification. Helping these employees pay for the necessary certification courses to earn that credential, said Suzanne Rohrbaugh, Vice President of Workforce Development and Continuing Education, is the key to helping them land a new job.
So, the local community college applied for grant funding from the North Carolina Community College System. In October, COA was awarded $120,000 in funding from a new state grant, part of the North Carolina Back-to-Work initiative. The $5.8 million program awarded the funding to 49 of 58 of the state’s community colleges, with each school receiving up to $120,000.
The state funding must be used during the school’s current fiscal year and expires June 30. The funding must also provide short-term, pre-employment training that leads to either an industry-recognized or state-recognized credential. Rohrbaugh said COA will use the money to help veterans who have experience working on military aircraft, earn their Federal Aviation Administration certification.
“Our immediate need in our area was in aviation,” Rohrbaugh said, referring to the area’s large military population. “This allowed for a short-term training opportunity for that group.”
“We’re trying to help the veteran, who may have received the training while active-duty military, but may have some gaps in the training that would qualify them to sit for the FAA certification. We’re trying to help them fill that skills gap.”
Starting Jan. 27, the school began offering two 16-week prep courses, an FAA Power Plant certification course and an FAA Air Frame certification course. Students who want both credentials can also pursue an Air Frame and Power Plant FAA certification.
“This is a fast-track program,” said Sarah Lagos, student success coach with the Workforce Development and Continuing Education program. Lagos said students enrolled in the courses will meet an hour weekly and qualifying students must have at least 18 months experience in their chosen field, or 30 months experience for those pursuing certification in both courses.
So far, 17 students have been accepted to the courses. The first class is made up of retired military workers from the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, and Rohrbaugh said the school has heard from many students interested in earning the FAA certifications.
Although the grant funding expires in June, school officials are hopeful the state will continue to pay for the training. In addition to helping area unemployed and underemployed veterans more marketable for jobs, local companies like DRS Technologies will also be able to compete for more contract work, Rohrbaugh said, and attract more business and industry to the area.
“We hope to offer this beyond the grant-funding because we realized there is a need for this,” Rohrbaugh added. “We really feel we’ve identified a need and a skills gap. This will help raise the level and credentialing of the workforce.”
For more information on this program, contact Suzanne Rohrbaugh, COA's Vice President of Workforce Development and Continuing Education, at 252-335-0821, ext. 2233.