By Jessica Williams | June 8, 2018

Alamance Community College leaders touted campus STEM and biotechnology educational opportunities at Friday, June 8, meeting.

GRAHAM — Alamance Community College is ready to provide trained workers in science, technology, engineering and math.

ACC hosted the advisory committee for the N.C. Biotechnology Center on Friday, June 8, showcasing the college’s STEM initiatives and effort to bridge the workforce training gap through presentations from various leaders.

“The North Carolina Community College Strategic Plan says on page two: ‘By 2020, 67 percent of all jobs in North Carolina will require post-secondary education, but only 48 percent of our working age population — that’s ages 18 to 64 — have a degree, certificate or other workplace credential that qualifies them for these jobs,’” ACC President Algie Gatewood said. “There’s a huge gap, and we’re doing everything we can to fill that gap.”

That starts at the high school level with partnerships like the Career and College Promise Program, which allows Alamance-Burlington students to earn certifications or even associate’s degrees from ACC before they’ve graduated from high school.

Through agreements with four-year institutions like UNC-Greensboro, ACC is paving a pathway from high school diploma to associate’s degree to bachelor’s degree (or beyond) for far cheaper than the normal route.

Horticulture Technology Department Head Liz Riley told the committee Southern Alamance High School has one of the largest Future Farmers of America programs in the state at 400 students — and many of them want to attend N.C. State University, but might not have the funding or résumés to get in right out of high school.

“They want to go to N.C. State,” Riley said. “So us working on this articulation agreement is going to help us increase our enrollment and also help them get into N.C. State because N.C. State is getting, every day, it’s getting more challenging for students to get in.”

With a brand new $16 million Advanced Applied Technology Center and a $39.6 million bond referendum on the November ballot, ACC is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to STEM, and Gatewood expects those dollars to boost Alamance County’s economy by providing a trained workforce.

“Alamance Community College has a responsibility to provide quality workforce training, and of course that’s undergirded by education, but we’re also the No. 1, in my opinion, economic engine in this county,” Gatewood said. “For every dollar invested in this college, the return on investment is $4.40. That is a 440 percent return on investment. If I was getting that kind of return on my investments, you wouldn’t know me.”

LabCorp Associate Vice President of Corporate Development Megann Vaughn Watters spoke about the company’s longstanding collaboration with Alamance Community College, which includes donating nearly $700,000 in unrestricted funds since 2008.

But the buck doesn’t stop with them.

Executive Director for the Biotechnology Center of Excellence Yonnie Butler told the committee ACC graduates are employed at companies all over the county and state, and Gatewood closed the meeting by saying:

“What we do is very, very, very important, and it is why we have industries that want to be here in this county, that’s why we have new industry, that’s why we have growing industry and that’s why the industry stays here.”

Reporter Jessica Williams can be reached at jessica.williams@thetimesnews.com or at 336-506-3046. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicawtn.

Original Article