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Spotlight

Educational institute finds rich opportunities in Washington

Posted January 21, 2021 5:00 a.m. EST

BCCC has been able to leverage one of the largest industries in Washington — boat building — into a complete program at the school, launching in January. In doing so, they've found a rich educational opportunity that's unique to the Washington area. (Photo Courtesy of Visuals by Helen)

This article was written for our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.

From the scenic waterfront to the locally owned shops and restaurants to the outdoor recreation, Washington certainly knows how to play — and thanks in large part to the presence of Beaufort County Community College, the town also knows how to work, too.

Beaufort County Community College aids in training the local and regional workforce, with degrees in everything from construction trades and engineering to health professions and business management. In providing a concentrated range of programs that build the local economy, the school plays an integral part in Washington's workforce — and vice-versa.

"Any community college's essential mission is to try to prepare and sustain a workforce for the region that it serves. We do a lot of customized training for local manufacturers, and we train a number of future employees, especially in nursing and allied health, which is among our largest programs," said David Loope, president of Beaufort County Community College. "We're busy working with the local school systems, partnering with them to ensure that we help provide the workforce that needs a baccalaureate and above for the future."

In addition to the school's training and programs, BCCC also has permission programs that are federally recognized apprenticeship programs. These programs aren't just an internship, but last for multiple years and help local companies upgrade the skills of their workers, while also opening the door for new employees to smoothly transition into the workforce. With large companies like Nutrien — the biggest employer in the county — utilizing these training and apprenticeship programs, BCCC and Washington have found the sweet spot for a mutually beneficial relationship.

Most recently, BCCC has been able to leverage one of the largest industries in Washington — boat building — into a complete program at the school, launching in January. In doing so, they've found a rich educational opportunity that's unique to the Washington area.

"There are now about 10 different companies employing close to 800 people in Beaufort County within the boat-building industry. With this new program, boat-building is going to really have a home here," said Loope. "We anticipate the program being a destination for people all over the area and the state because the closest program of its type that is as expansive as our program will be is in Wilmington."

"These programs really do draw students from all over the area, and we anticipate that boat building will be similar in that people will come from counties all over eastern North Carolina," added Attila Nemecz, public relations and marketing coordinator at BCCC. "The jobs that will be produced from the program will be very lucrative for these students, and they'll be developing highly specialized skills in the process."

In starting the program, the school received a $200,000 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation to help get it off the ground. The money will go towards buying equipment and also funding the first year of the faculty salaries.

Students of the boat-building concentration will have two different diploma options. The first is primarily a woodworking diploma program specifically geared toward boat construction. The second will be the larger of the two, for fabrication and applications related to electronics and mechanics of boat-building.

While the boat-building program is just the latest in what BCCC has to offer, the school hopes to continue both being a benefit to and benefiting from its location in Washington.

"We see ourselves as being intricately tied to the health, welfare and future success of Washington in terms of economic development and workforce development. But also, we're here as a resource for the community when it comes to personal enrichment and their overall wellbeing," said Loope. "As the largest city in our service region, Washington is closely tied to our planning and how we want to strategically meet the needs of the people who live there. We're very keen on serving a population that is usually underserved by higher education."

That relationship works both ways. To successfully run their programs, BCCC needs experienced faculty. Typically, schools located in more rural areas often struggle to find qualified instructors. But since Washington has a strong reputation for quality of life, attracting a workforce has never been an issue — a fact that Nemecz himself can attest to, after relocating to the area from Raleigh.

"Washington is this nice mix of openness and small-town life, and I think that complements what we're trying to do at the college with our small class sizes and family-friendly atmosphere. There are a lot of similarities between what's important to the school and what's important to the town," said Nemecz. "I left Raleigh looking for more of a small town, and now I live a few blocks from the river and the historic district of Washington. The city gives people a hub, and we're part of a combination that offers a more urban lifestyle in a relatively rural area. It's a place for a real exchange of ideas."

Moving forward, BCCC hopes to continue growing its programs and making an impact on Washington, while also capitalizing on the unique opportunities that the area provides. In doing so, it will be fostering a unique connection that few other schools in the area can claim.

"These bonds between individuals are really important around here and it's a major positive aspect that builds up the community," said Loope. "Those same connections and priorities exist in the same way between the college and the city, and it's what makes us such a valuable resource to each other."

This article was written for our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.

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