History & Background
A History of Family and Community Education
NOTE: The following article was published in July 2006 in the Danville
Register & Bee
as part of a feature celebrating the college's 40-year anniversary.
When Danville resident Joe Clay found himself in a dead-end job in the early 90s, he knew it was time to take action. Thus, when his father, Jerry Clay, suggested that they enroll together in an air-conditioning and refrigeration program at DCC, he was up for the challenge.
Although this would be Joe’s first time as a DCC student, he was no stranger to the opportunities the college offers. His father had graduated from its industrial electricity and industrial electronics programs two decades earlier. Today the elder Clay credits his career success at Lorillard, from which he retired two years ago after 43 years of service, with the outstanding career training he received at DCC. Jerry’s Lorillard career started as an instrumentation technician and ended in Lorillard’s prestigious research and development division.
“When I was growing up, in our family the name ‘DCC’ was synonymous with success,” Joe recalls. “It seems like my father was always taking one course or another at DCC. We were taught that in order to succeed, a person needed good training, and the best place to get that training was DCC.”
Vice President of DCC’s Workforce Services Dr. Max Glass says that the Clay’s story is typical. “That’s why we take pride in being a community college. We serve the community, and that usually equates to multiple generations of family,” he noted.
Glass, who just four years ago was named the Virginia Community College System’s Workforce Services Educator of the Year, left a faculty position at Virginia Tech to launch DCC’s workforce training efforts in 1969 – only then it was called the “Continuing Education” program.
“We were referred to as the ‘evening college,’” Glass recalls. “We offered basic college transfer courses as well as training in electricity, electronics, police science, and child care, for example.”
The college’s workforce training program has come a long way since then.
Early efforts included creation of customized training programs for businesses such as Westinghouse (ABB at the time), Dan River Mills, and The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The hiring of Don Campbell in the early 1970s to serve as Assistant Director of Continuing Education opened the door to creation of various non-credit training programs as well.
Business was booming as local companies sought more and more opportunities to help keep their employees abreast of the latest technologies. In response, DCC created the Center for Business, Industry, and Government (C-BIG) in 1987, with Dr. Ed. White (now Dean of DCC’s Business & Engineering Technologies Division) serving as the first director; followed by James Parrish; then Dr. Betty Jo Foster (who went on to eventually serve as DCC’s Vice President of Academic & Student Services); and finally Jeff Arnold (who now serves as DCC’s Director of Business, Industry, and Economic Assistance).
In 1999, DCC created a counterpart organization known as the Regional Center for Advanced Technology & Training (RCATT), originally headed by Dr. Jim Johnson and then Scott Barnes (who now serves as DCC’s Vice President of Financial & Administrative Services). In October 2005, the college opened the doors on its new RCATT facility, designed to house the ever-growing high-tech programs in the Workforce Services group.
Today C-BIG and RCATT have merged to form the complete Workforce Services picture, combining the strengths and synergy of resources from both organizations to carry on the DCC tradition of providing effective workforce training programs through partnerships with business and industry (these partnerships of which have led to DCC receiving seven Exemplary Partnerships with Business & Industry awards over the years from the Virginia Department of Education for partnerships with the Memorial Hospital; the City of Danville; the Riddle Center; Dan River Mills; The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company; Huber Engineered Woods; and Yorktowne Cabinetry).
While the college enjoys its industry partnerships, it is still proud that a great deal of its focus remains on the community and on families.
Indeed, in the Clay’s case, it was not just father and son who attended DCC, but also Joe Clay’s wife Kristen (who now uses her DCC-acquired computer skills in her current career), as well as Joe’s mother, who studied cosmetology.
And Joe? After taking the original air conditioning and refrigeration classes with his father, he went on to earn a degree in DCC’s Industrial Maintenance program in 1994 and then a diploma from the college’s machining program in 1995, graduating cum laude from both programs. Just last spring he completed programmable logic controller training in DCC’s Industrial Maintenance Lab.
He credits his DCC education with helping him land a lucrative position at AMP in Greensboro in the mid 90s, noting that back then there were few high-paying technical jobs in the Danville area.
But just as times have changed in DCC’s Workforce Services program, the times are changing in Danville’s business community, too. As local economic developers focus on bringing high-tech jobs to the region, employees like Joe are becoming a hot commodity. In late June, Joe landed a job as a mold technician with Essel Propack, one of the region’s new companies whose operations demand well-trained technical experts.
Kerry Dodds, Essel Propack molding plant manager, commented, “We’re happy to have Joe. He’s coming in at a higher-level because of his education at DCC.”
Joe agrees. “I feel like I’ve come full circle,” he said. “I got my training here in Danville, I’m raising my family here in Danville, and now I have a career that, hopefully, I can keep throughout my life here in Danville. I thank my dad all the time for talking me into going back to school at DCC.”