DCC program takes ‘training to a new level’

The number of the Dan River Region’s students in advanced manufacturing has increased by three times since five years ago. That means there are more qualified workers for jobs like the ones announced by Kyocera SGS Tech Hub LLC on Thursday afternoon.

Five years ago, Danville Community College had about 50 students enrolled in precision machining, said DCC President Bruce Scism.

Today, there are 100 at DCC, 35 at the Gene Haas Center for Integrated Machining and 40 at the Pittsylvania Career and Technical Center, Scism pointed out. DCC has partnerships with those centers for its advanced manufacturing/precision machining program.

“We have more than tripled the number of students,” Scism said during an interview at his office Wednesday.

The state legislature, local foundations, equipment manufacturers and local industry are also involved, he said.

“Every one of those graduates will be able to find work,” he added.

Danville Public Schools’ upcoming precision machining lab at George Washington High School will add another 40, Scism pointed out.

The announcement earlier in July that British company Overfinch is opening its first manufacturing location in the United States in Danville is being viewed as a win-win situation at DCC and its advanced manufacturing program.

The region’s training programs for advanced manufacturing — particularly precision machining — were cited as being one of the main reasons Overfinch chose Danville for the new plant.

Precision machining students in the region are not only working with state-of-the-art equipment, they’re in a manufacturing setting with a focus on teamwork, efficiency, time management and critical thinking, Scism said.

The program is not about training for repetitive tasks and focusing only on one part of manufacturing a product, Scism said. Employers want workers who know several machines down the line and understand the manufacturing flow to reduce waste, he said.

“We’re taking training to a new level,” he said.

Under DCC’s program, high school students in Pittsylvania County can earn a year’s credit in precision machining through dual enrollment and earn a two-year certificate following another year at DCC. The Gene Haas Center offers a third year in an advanced program, Scism said.

Graduates currently find jobs at local companies such as EIT, Piedmont Precision Machine, IKEA, Master Gage & Tool Co. and out of the area at companies that include Babcock & Wilcox in Lynchburg and Rolls Royce in Prince George County.

Scism said he would like to see more women and minorities enrolled in its program. One female graduate of its advanced manufacturing program had seven job offers, he said.

The program also offers a one-year certificate in quality control/inspection — which is ideal for older workers looking for a career change, Scism said.

The main skills employers are looking for are willingness to work hard and learn about high-tech manufacturing, Scism said.

“This degree is not so much about a strong back,” he said. “This is a high-tech program.”

DCC has a high graduation rate for its two-year program — more than 80 percent, Scism said. For high school students, the first year in the program is free, while the second year at DCC costs about $4,500 to $6,000.

For less than $10,000, students can enroll in a program that can get jobs paying $17 to $25 an hour, Scism said.

“It’s really economical,” he said.

All prospective students need are an interest in the program and willingness to learn and master the material, he said.

The positions offer solid middle-income jobs enabling employees to buy a home, raise a family, and educate their children, Scism said.

John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at jcrane@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7987.

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