Toyota brings opportunity to Randolph Community College | Jobs Reply

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When Toyota announced it had chosen a Greensboro-Randolph County megasite for its new $1.29 billion automotive battery plant, state leaders were thrilled.

“It’s fantastic that Toyota has chosen North Carolina for such an important part of its electric vehicle future, creating good-paying jobs and moving us toward a healthier environment,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press release back in December 2021. “Make it Clean The world is beginning to embrace a clean energy future, and today’s decision puts North Carolina front and center.”

“I welcome Toyota to North Carolina,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, in a press release. “We’ve worked hard to transform North Carolina into one A job-friendly state with low taxes, reasonable regulations, and a world-class education system. As a result, companies large and small are creating jobs here, continuing a decade of growth.”

But while the response to state leaders was unrelenting joy, for Randolph Community College interim president Elbert Lassiter, he knew it was time to get ready.

“The challenge for us going forward is Toyota building a facility within our county So that means Randolph Community College is responsible for providing basic training,” he added later: “We are in the process of ordering the necessary equipment. And we are looking for places to provide that specialized training. We’re actually in conversation with our neighboring community colleges … Is there a way to build a regional training center somewhere around the Toyota site that will not only serve Toyota but also serve … all the other companies that could come in as suppliers to the two companies and the existing companies in that particular area?

Randolph Community College will initially cost about $2.2 million and cover about 2,400 employees, Lassiter said. But neither Randolph nor Toyota is paying. State community colleges can provide customized training to companies and receive reimbursement through the state.

And the opportunity presented by Toyota could bring other blessings to Randolph Community College as well. Toyota will be hiring, and Randolph is well positioned to provide the workers the company needs. At least as far as infrastructure goes.

When you walk through Randolph Community College’s Continuing Education and Industrial Center, you see cavernous rooms filled with machine after machine, you see classrooms rigged with electronic wiring projects, robots both manual and automated, students learning that Not to mention that many computers use it. To run some tools. But, on the day EducationNC visited, there were more machines than students. And that’s a problem.

Gene Haas Computer-Integrated Machining Institute at Randolph Community College. Alex Granados/EducationNC

Jaime Trogdon, department head of the college’s computer integrated machining program, said he gets calls several times a week from companies across the state, not to mention Virginia, South Carolina and even Tennessee, looking for graduates who can move. work

“The biggest problem is we can’t meet the demand,” he said. “We don’t have enough students to satisfy everyone. This is one of our biggest challenges right now.”

A student working on his electrical skills at Randolph Community College. Alex Granados/EducationNC

Get more students

Post-Covid-19, community college enrollments across the state have dropped, and Randolph, like many community colleges, is starting to see those numbers tick up. One of the ways the college is trying to address the problem is through apprenticeships, including its Apprenticeship Randolph program — a pre-education program for high school students.

Stacey Miller is the College’s Director of Learning and Pathways. He said there are apprenticeship opportunities for high school students in manufacturing that include machining and mechatronics tracks. And there are also options in automotive and IT among others.

The program currently has 21 company partners and has graduated 20 students so far. During the summer, participants do a six-week program that includes classes at school as well as on-the-job training.

One of the students who went through is Colby Edwards, 22, who currently works at Sapona Plastics, LLC in Asheboro.

He started pre-education program in high school. He said he didn’t really have post-graduation plans, other than that he knew he wanted to weld. One of his friends approached him one day and said he was going to join an apprenticeship program. So Edwards jumped on board.

He ended up working with Sapona during the program and then continued working with them after graduation.

“They pretty much touched everything. I didn’t just do a job. I learned a lot,” he said of Sapona.

Graduated from Edwards College with Associates of Applied Science and Advanced Manufacturing. But with a few more classes, he can also get a degree in machining. So while he’s working, he’s still following it.

He has nothing but good things to say about the pre-apprenticeship program and the future it offers.

“It really opened up a lot of avenues for me. So I really enjoyed it,” he added later: “If it wasn’t for my organization and Stacey, none of this would have been possible.”

Toyota opportunity

At this point, Lassiter said all students who could potentially go to work for Toyota when it opens have already been spoken for. More students will be needed to provide staff for the company in the future.

“That’s a big part of what Toyota is trying to do. Get more people interested in going to school and working for them,” Lassiter said.

This time next year, Randolph Community College will be rolling out training for the company. And the plant will keep the college busy for the foreseeable future, Lassiter said.

“Five years from now there will be 4 or 5,000 people on that campus. And not just machinists, not just operators. They’ll have accountants, they’ll have everything you have in a small town,” he said. “So all of our study programs will benefit … but the biggest challenge for me when talking about Toyota and training is how do I make sure I don’t lose sight, Randolph Community College doesn’t lose sight, of our other existing industry partners?

Partners like Sapona Plastics where Edwards went to work. Even as shiny new things come to town, Randolph Community College needs to remember its roots.

“They are equally important. No, no, no, they are more important. They created these apprenticeships at Randolph themselves, and they’ve hired our students for years,” Lassiter said. “Yes, we are happy with Toyota. We’re going to do what we’re going to do for Toyota, but not at the expense of the families we serve here in Randolph County.

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