Rockingham County Schools begin machining classes to build a pipeline of advanced manufacturing workers

Manufacturing is one of the top industries in the state. In Rockingham County, manufacturing jobs account for 22% of available employment according to local officials; however, local employers are having difficulty filling available jobs.

“We have more potential contracts than we can possibly fill,” noted Matt Edwards, Human Resources Director at Machine Specialists Inc. “The issue is having someone trained to use the equipment we have. The growth of our business is limited only by the ability to secure qualified employees.”

Therefore, the City of Reidsville in conjunction with the Reidsville Industrial Alliance initiated planning to establish a machining lab on the campus of Reidsville High School. The machining lab is part of a larger strategy called RESET Rockingham, which aims to build the education and workforce in Rockingham County. Partners include Rockingham County Schools’ Career Technical Education (CTE) program, Rockingham Community College (RCC), Workforce Development, Economic Development, non-profit organizations, and local business leaders.

“The necessity of increasing the number of young people that choose a career in advanced manufacturing immediately emerged at the top of RESET Rockingham’s list of priorities,” said Ken Scott, Rockingham County Schools Director of Classified Personnel/CTE. “The Manual Machining program at Reidsville High School constitutes a substantial part of a comprehensive county-wide effort to meet the employment needs of our region in the area of advanced manufacturing and to provide good career opportunities.”

In February 2019, the Golden LEAF Foundation awarded $200,000 to RCS to purchase a total of five lathes and five milling machines. Students in 11th and 12th grades are eligible to enroll in the college-level classes. The program started this fall with eight students enrolled.

“The program will help enhance the pipeline of students who are able to gain excellent work-based experience through participation in the Rockingham County Apprenticeship and Technical Opportunities (RockATOP) apprenticeship,” said Scott. “This will increase the number of young people who choose to continue their education at RCC and to provide them with opportunities to thrive in the community. This program is also essential for providing local businesses with opportunities to locate and expand.”

The 15-hour program introduces students to machine shop safety, measuring tools, lathes, drilling machines, saws, milling machines, bench grinders, and layout instruments. Upon completion, students should be able to safely perform the basic operations of measuring, layout, drilling, sawing, turning, and milling. Completers will earn a Manual Machining Certificate and become OSHA certified from Rockingham Community College. The program is expected to graduate eight students each year to provide a steady pipeline of students entering the manufacturing field to meet the needs of local employers.

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