$2.5 million grant to help DCC machining, welding students

DANVILLE — Students in Danville Community College’s precision machining and welding technology programs will be even more prepared for the workforce through their training on the latest high tech equipment, thanks to a nearly $2.5 million grant from the Danville Regional Foundation.
The award, made recently to the DCC Educational Foundation over the next three years, will be used to purchase vital training equipment for the machining and welding programs.

“”We are extremely grateful to the Danville Regional Foundation in providing the funds needed to continue our expansion in precision machining and welding,” said DCC President Dr. Bruce Scism.
“I appreciate the leadership of the Danville Regional Foundation board in supporting our vision for the economic development of this region. This grant award will play a significant role in providing students with a substantive hands-on learning experience that is essential to ensuring that graduates possess the job-ready skills expected and needed by industry.”

Science, technology, engineering, and math education along with workforce development are part of Danville Regional Foundation’s key strategy, according to Karl Stauber, president and chief executive officer.

“As a region, and as individuals, we must constantly work to recreate our competitive advantages in this global economy,” Stauber said. “DCC, along with other area institutions, is playing a key role in growing the employment opportunities in the Dan River Region and that is one of the many reasons Danville Regional Foundation invested in this important effort.”

According to Scism, some 300 new jobs are expected to be created over the next five years in advanced manufacturing, and it will be critical that DCC is positioned to provide the training and skills needed for potential new industries as well as the current workforce.

In terms of funding, DCC will receive $472,321 the first year, $589,886 the second year, and $1.4 million the final year.

Troy Simpson, associate professor of precision machining technology, said the grant is a “game-changer” for the region.

“This generous award will make it possible for citizens in our region to receive training on some of the most advanced welding, CNC machining, and metrology equipment available and provide them with the skills they need to earn certifications recognized by global manufacturing companies,” Simpson said.

DCC has already launched plans for renovations to the Charles Hawkins Engineering and Industrial Technologies Building, which will eventually expand the precision machining program space from 8,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet.

The welding program, along with two other programs, will move into a new 7,500-square- foot building that will be constructed adjacent to the Hawkins building.

The expansion not only will accommodate additional students in the programs, but create more laboratory space to offer more opportunities for one-on-one hands-on use of equipment.
DCC has developed a manufacturing technician certification program that will enable high school students to gain skills and earn college credit through dual enrollment with coursework and credentialing through the college’s precision machining, welding and industrial maintenance.

Pittsylvania County Schools already has launched a precision machining program, which combines curricula and support from the DCC program. Upon graduation from high school, students enter DCC as a second-year student.

Not only do the dual enrolled students save money, but earning the credits allows them to skip a year of study at DCC.

Josh Fowler, a 2014 graduate of Chatham High School, enrolled in the precision machining program and literally graduated from high school on a Friday and began the on-campus DCC program the following Tuesday.

He had enough dual enrollment credits from his studies while in high school that he was able to enroll as a second-year student.

“I think machining is an interesting field and I enjoy doing it.” Fowler said. “My goal is to get a job after one year of college. I am still researching all the possible job opportunities.”
The program expansion is also creating opportunities for more students to learn about careers in advanced manufacturing.

Portia Russell, who lost her job when a Danville company closed, is also enrolled as a second-year student in precision machining.

With the program expansion from 25 students per year to more than 100 students currently, Russell said she saw her opportunity to enroll in a high-demand field.

“I know there will be great opportunities that will come from me earning my credential in the precision machining program, particularly innovative and cutting edge career opportunities,” Russell said. “This program gives me confidence that I will have a stable career.”

Russell also said this is a perfect time to engage other women interested in a non-traditional career.

“(The program expansion) is a perfect opportunity for females to enroll especially if they enjoy hands-on learning and they are visual learners,” Russell continued. “My goal is that once I complete the program that I am an inspiration to other females who want to pursue a non-traditional career. I want my abilities as a machinist to speak volumes.”

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