CCC trustees hear from auto industry leaders, instructors about need for new workforce | News

MOREHEAD CITY — Automotive industry leaders in the county joined with Carteret Community College administrators and trustees Feb. 21 to discuss future construction of a workforce development center for trades and technology on the CCC campus.

Also joining in the discussion were CCC instructors in diesel mechanics, automotive technology, welding and other construction-related courses offered on campus. Many courses are currently held in outdated facilities, with some built in the 1960s.

CCC is proposing to build a workforce development center to train current and future workers in programs like automotive, diesel and heavy equipment, carpentry, electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), masonry, plumbing, various inspection certifications, welding, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and CDL Class A courses.

With enrollment growth increasing in popular courses like welding and automotive, CCC President Dr. Tracy Mancini said a new center has been needed for a long time to meet the growing industry demand in the county and surrounding areas.

“Carteret Community College is outgrowing its facilities and must expand to meet the demands,” she said during the CCC trustees retreat, held in the college’s Historic Camp Glenn Foundation Building. “In addition, the technologies associated with these programs are rapidly changing. Carteret Community College must update equipment to meet the industry needs and train students with the relevant skills required by employers.”

Several owners and leaders in the county’s automotive industry, including Brian Parker, general manager of Parker Honda and Parker Buick GMC, Dean Wagaman, owner of Kurtis Chevrolet, Hillary Gutshall, general manager of Kurtis Chevrolet, and Carlis Hardin, service manager for Kurtis Chevrolet, said there is a growing need for trained service workers.

Parker said, “We employ 10 service technicians and 10 body shop technicians and our industry, as a whole, struggles to find new young technicians.”

Gutshall added the industry is trying to come up with new ways to recruit young people, not only as technicians, but in the parts and service departments. She and others pointed out that students who get training can land jobs that pay $60,000 to $70,000.

Wagaman agreed, adding that it’s common to see trained technicians making more than $100,000 per year.

He further said there is a continual need for service technicians.

“The shortage is very real and we don’t want them to go somewhere else for training, we want them here,” Wagaman said.

Hardin, a longtime service manager at Kurtis Chevrolet, said the automotive industry now requires highly trained technicians.

“The days of mechanics is over. These cars are so computerized. There are multiple computers in a vehicle and they need the skills to operate computers and diagnostic skills. It is so much more advanced,” Hardin said. “Technicians are hard to come by.”

Hardin added there’s a need for associate’s degree programs in automotive technology.

Mancini said the college researched the trades that are proposed to be housed in the new center, including transportation-related trades such as automotive. Within a 25-mile radius of CCC, in the last 30 days, there were 1,851 transportation-related job postings and 605 job openings. The five- and 10-year projections show an increase in demand for trained workers in both construction and transportation-related fields.

Mancini said CCC started curriculum programs in automotive technology, diesel and heavy equipment and welding technology in 2018 in existing spaces. In 2019, the college hired Oakley Collier Architects to conduct a 10-year master facilities plan to identify capital project priorities. In February 2020, trustees identified a transportation technology center as the top priority.

The General Assembly, in 2021, began a four-year State Construction Infrastructure Fund (SCIF), with CCC receiving the first of four SCIF installments of $843,925 in July 2021. The funds were earmarked for a transportation technology center. The college has received three $843,925 installments so far, with a final one due in July 2024. Plus, the NC General Assembly approved a $6 million allocation for a Workforce Development Center at CCC in 2023. The college received $3 million of that allocation in 2023 and will receive the final $3 million in July 2024.

As of July 2024, CCC will have $9.37 million to put toward construction of the workforce development center.

Dr. Mancini said the college has consulted with a soil scientist to review three potential sites on campus for the new center and plans to discuss those locations with the CCC trustees buildings and grounds and finance committees next week. From that meeting, trustees will bring the matter before the full board at its March 13 meeting.

The board must decide on a construction and funding method for the facility. Trustees and staff have also been touring other community colleges that have built automotive centers.

Dr. Mancini invited Derek Hunter, vice president of operations at Wayne Community College, who has built a state-of-the art automotive training facility, to speak at the retreat. Also on hand was Brad Lockwood with Mosley Architects, architect for the facility.

The two reviewed funding options available to construct the building and how they chose a nontraditional method known as design-build. Hunter also partnered with an area dealership to help pay for the building, as well as the college’s foundation to equip it. Regardless of what funding method is used, CCC instructors in the automotive and trades programs said they were in need of updated and additional space.

Grant Seaton and Brian Salter with the automotive and diesel mechanics programs, said the automotive building has one diesel room, a lack of storage, no suitable space for live projects, safety issues related to ADA compliance and electrical infrastructure issues. There is an absence of high bays to lift vehicles and more. Plus, they need updated equipment to keep up with industry standards.

Steve Martin, head of the welding program, said his popular courses have waiting lists. The area where the program is taught is in tight quarters and has outdated electrical that dates back to the 1960s.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email [email protected]; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.