Staff Contact:

Andrea J. Burney, APR

Director of  Public Relations



DDANVILLE, VA, Sept. 30, 2014 -- In an announcement from the White House yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan named Danville Community College as the recipient of a $2.5 million job-driven training grant. The award was made under the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program and provides funding for Retooling America, a partnership between DCC and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research to provide industry credentialed career pathways to further develop the region’s advanced manufacturing workforce.

“This funding will provide innovative training opportunities for residents in the Dan River Region as well as providing local manufacturers access to employees with job skills that heretofore have not been offered at any other community college in the state,? said DCC President Bruce Scism.

The funding will be used to develop the first phase of Retooling America, which will focus on developing a Precision Machining Technology career pathway that provides students with opportunities to earn valuable, employer-recognized national industry certifications. The pathway culminates in students being able to apply the skills they learned in the various training modules in a real-world manufacturing flow cell setting. The flow cell will be housed at the IALR.

According to DCC’s Director of Advanced Manufacturing Troy Simpson, the flow cell concept will allow workers to enter the workforce with higher-level skills and will save employers significant costs for on-the-job training of new hires.

“Traditional manufacturing training programs have historically focused on teaching students how to operate individual pieces of machinery,? Simpson explained. “This requires employers to spend time training workers on how those skills come together on the shop floor. In Retooling America, students not only learn to master the individual processes, but they are taken to the next level where, working in the manufacturing work flow cell being built at the IALR, students learn how to integrate their skills into the big picture, the full-scale manufacturing work flow cell setting that is found in pretty much any advanced manufacturing plant.?

Simpson noted that the Retooling program will not replace the college’s two-year machining diploma program, but will provide additional options for students to further enhance their skills. “In addition to providing higher-level training options for students new to the field of machining, we will be doing a lot of work with existing workers – employees who have been in the business and already possess strong skill sets, but who want to learn new skills in their field.?

To this end, workers who enter the program will be assessed on their individual abilities. Those who have the appropriate skill levels will be entered directly into one of the advanced level training modules.

While the program does feature highly advanced levels of skill training, the career pathway has open entry and exit points, which enable students to enter the pathway at all levels of educational attainment. Partnerships with Goodwill Industries of South Central Virginia and the West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board, for example, enable workers to enter the program even at the GED level and then progress through the more technical levels of training once they have earned their GEDs and have attained proficiency in basic manufacturing technician skills.

Other key players in the project include industry partners such as Master Gage & Tool, Piedmont Precision Machine Company, Babcock & Wilcox, and other manufacturers that have helped provide guidance on course content and curriculum development. These manufacturers have also expressed a strong need for the skills being offered in the new program and have committed to hiring qualified program graduates.

Scism noted that the award was the result of strong support from various local and state levels as well, including, in particular, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones and Commerce and Trade Advisor for Workforce Development Elizabeth Creamer, as well as Congressman Robert Hurt.

IALR Executive Director Jerry Gwaltney stated, “Bringing this kind of initiative to our region requires a real team effort, and our represented officials and local and state government staff members have been thoroughly behind us all the way as we have developed this program. Our partnership with DCC is foundational to the development of the program. This grant, combined with the industry support the initiative has received, is a great start toward launching this high-value advanced learning program.?

DCC expects to start accepting students into the program within a year.

“The sky is the limit for Retooling America,? Scism noted. “This new work flow cell training concept could be applied to all types of advanced manufacturing specialties. We expect that Danville will be drawing a lot of attention in the manufacturing world because of this program. That will be a good thing because our ultimate goal is to be a catalyst for helping attract high-paying new jobs to our region.?


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