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May 15, 2013

Forum allows talk on workforce

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 — The Institute for Emerging Issue, in partnership with the NC Association of County Commissioners, NC Cooperative Extension and the NC Community College System, hosted a community forum in the Magnolia Room of Stanly Regional Medical Center Monday evening.

The purpose of the forum was to help figure out how to better align the needs of manufacturers with the educational opportunities presented by North Carolina.

Economic development, school board, cooperative extension, chamber of commerce and small business leaders were present at the forum.

Jason Nelson with the Institute for Emerging Issues was present at the forum, observing the panelists’ answers so that he could use this information to understand the needs of communities, such as Stanly County.

Dr. Brenda Kays, president of Stanly Community College, was there to moderate the discussion and posed many questions for the panelists.

The panel was comprised of Preston Gray, site manager for Michelin US 11; Peter Nance, general manager for Chicago Tube and Iron; and Dan Tweed Jr., vice president of operations for Carnes-Miller Gear Co., Inc.

Each person on the panel spoke a little about the business they run, their involvement with the community and how they’ve benefitted from a partnership with the community college.

“What skills do you currently consider to be your most pressing workforce needs?” Kays asked.

“Machinist skills,” Tweed said.

“When I say machinist, I mean that in the true sense of the word. People who can think on their feet and know what they’re doing.”

A common theme among the three was the need for “soft skills” to be taught, things such as customer service and proper workplace behavior.

“Certainly there is a technical skill set that we have a need for at Michelin. We’re always looking for industrial maintenance. What happens when those machines don’t work? What happens when those machines aren’t functioning properly? You need someone with an electro-mechanical skill set to restore those machines to functionality. We find it difficult to find people with that basic technical skill set,” Gray said.

Two other skills Gray mentioned as having a need for were professionalism and leadership. Another common skill needed was the ability to think critically.

Nance talked about the need for workers to be able to adapt, that the workforce needs to be able to keep up with constantly advancing equipment.

“We’ve been on the wrong end of the technology curve. We are trying to play catch up. There is change coming and our workforce has to embrace that change and take it on,” Nance said.

The three named off a few things that could help develop manufacturing in Stanly County.

One was elementary education. Gray discussed how improved education would make the county appear more attractive and help pull in more people and industry.

Another way to help is to form more partnerships to bring more awareness to modern manufacturing.

The last way to help was to shield impediments that keep small businesses from functioning.

For more information on economic development in Stanly County, visit stanlyedc.org.

To submit story ideas, contact Ian Faulkner at ian@stanlynewspress.com or (704) 982-2121 ext. 21.

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