New facility would improve training

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Person County’s economic development leaders want to make sure the region is well equipped to train the work force of the future. To do that, they need facilities.

Piedmont Community College President Pamela Senegal is trying to address that need through the creation of and Advanced Training Center.

After visits to other training facilities in Danville and South Boston, Va., local officials see a niche they believe can be filled in Person County: long-term training.

“The goal is not to replace what they are doing in South Boston or Danville. I see us having a relationship with those two facilities,” Senegal said.

The facility in South Boston, called the Southern Virginia Higher Educational Center, focuses on short-term training needs for existing companies. In Danville, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research focuses its efforts more providing meeting and training space for companies.

PCC is currently conducting a needs assessment to make certain that what its economic development officials believe is correct. That study is expected to begin soon and Senegal says the results of that analysis will be far-reaching.

“They will tell us if there is a need and what kinds of facilities and site we would need to house something like this,” Senegal said.

The community college already provides an array of training for existing companies, but Senegal said that effort is spread out across five different buildings in a mish-mash of spaces. Bringing all that training space into one location would make it more flexible and would allow the college to buy and house the machinery it needs to provide training to companies in Person County and throughout the region.

Senegal said industry is moving toward a more high-tech focus with machinery designed to implement precise designs for parts and other materials. In some cases, Senegal said, the college simply doesn’t have a space to house some of that equipment so that it can train workers.

The feasibility study is due to be completed early next year, in time for PCC and the county’s economic development department to request funding from the county.

In the meantime, other work toward the development of an ATC is ongoing. Senegal is rounding up support among local industry leaders to help promote awareness of the need for the center. She is also busy looking for additional funding sources in addition to county funds. There are a lot of options out there, she said, including the N.C. Department of Commerce, the state community college system and private funds. And, Senegal said, the decision to call the potential new facility an Advanced Training Center, wasn’t by accident.

“Giving it that designation could open up the possibility of federal funding,” Senegal said.

Senegal believes the need is significant for Person County.
“Our industries are evolving at a really rapid pace,” Senegal said. “Our institution has to keep up and our facilities are really not where they need to be.”

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