Last updated: March 27. 2014 4:04PM - 759 Views
By Kitsey E. Burns kburns@civitasmedia.com

Kurtis Hill prepares to practice welding a steel plate in the Surry Community College Back to Work welding class.
Kurtis Hill prepares to practice welding a steel plate in the Surry Community College Back to Work welding class.
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DOBSON — A new free program at Surry Community College is helping provide the skills needed to put the unemployed back to work in the local manufacturing industry. The NC Back to Work program is funded by grants to the North Carolina Community Colleges by the state legislature through the Department of Commerce.

“The goal of the program is to bridge the gap between the skills manufacturing employers need and the skills possessed by potential employees,” said Success Coach Dale Badgett. “Our manufacturing industry partners have told us that safety, basic production knowledge, quality practices and welding are the skills they need to grow their businesses. We are trying to fill that gap.”

Badgett’s job as Success Coach for the program is to guide students at every step of the process from enrollment to career development, job search and follow-up employment issues. The two course tracts available are basic welding and certified production technician. The program involves not only specific training for manufacturing jobs, including OSHA safety and forklift training, but also teaches students about resume writing, interview skills and other essential tools to give them a competitive edge in the job market.

Jeff Williams of State Road is in the Back to Work program at SCC and said that he believes the skills and certifications he will earn in the program will be the key to his success in finding a new job.

“It’s difficult to find a job in this area,” Williams said. “We are all competing for jobs, so I need anything that can give me an advantage.”

Five students completed the initial Back to Work program in January and in the current class there are five individuals in the welding program and nine working to become certified production technicians.

For Matthew Clark, who completed the welding program and is now working toward achieving his production technician certification, the Back to Work program was life changing. Clark, a young Army veteran, returned from serving the country only to struggle to find a job and eventually becoming homeless. With the help of his family in Dobson, Clark learned about the Back to Work program and is now working full-time at Austin Enclosures in Yadkinville.

“The best part about [the Back to Work Program] is that, in a way, you are guaranteed work, it just takes some time,” Clark said. He was thrilled upon receiving his certificate in welding and said he anticipated getting a job the next week. While it did take closer to a month before he was hired at Austin Enclosures, Clark said that the resume writing and interview skills he learned in the program took a lot of stress away from the job application process.

Badgett said that a critical part of the Back to Work program is the cooperation and input from local industries. Lydall, Austin Enclosures, Leonard USA, Elastrix and Pittsburgh Glass Works not only provided guidance to help get the program started, but also have committed to interviewing program graduates for open positions they may have.

Other local partners include the Workforce Development Board, Division of Workforce Solutions, Surry and Yadkin economic development partnerships, Veterans Service Organizations, Goodwill Industries, the Department of Social Services and NC JobLink.

Elvis Brannam of Yadkinville has worked in the manufacturing industry for more than 30 years, but when he found himself unemployed, he decided to take advantage of the Back to Work program to enhance the skills he already possessed in order to reenter the workforce.

Through the program, Brannam expanded on his skills in project management, by getting OSHA certified and learning to operate a forklift. His advice to others who have lost their jobs is to “dig in” and take advantage of the Back to Work Program because it can “open a lot of doors.”

“This program should really stay in the school for a long period of time for the better interest of the economy,” Clark said.

Badgett also said they hope to expand the Back to Work program to offer additional industry training in the future. The next Back to Work course is scheduled to begin on April 7. For more information, call 336-386-3253 or email badgettd@surry.edu.

Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.

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