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Norlina Company Helps Employees Get Educations

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NORLINA — Illiteracy and school dropouts are two problems that plague poor communities. They also plague companies searching for qualified employees. Now, one Norlina company is taking an aggressive approach toward helping its workers achieve academic excellence on the job.

Glen Raven Mills uses computer automation to stay competitive. The company wants to continue being a leader in the textile industry. In order to do that, Glen Raven leaders understand that they must create educational opportunities for the workforce to understand the new technology.

"As long as they've got the will, we have the means to get them the ability to do the job that they need to do," says Todd Wemyss, plant manager.

To reach its goal, the company created a learning program called Learning Education and Development (LEAD), in which employees take computer training, study basic skills, if they didn't graduate from high school, work towards their GEDs.

"It's so rewarding," says LEAD instructor Sharon Carlson. "I come to class every day and these people work so hard. It's just great to be here and its great to be a part of their goals that they set every year."

Samuel Champion dropped out of high school after his father died. Now, at age 58, he's studying for his GED.

"I won't give up," says Champion. "Because the sky's the limit."

Other employees are taking the "lead" and completing their educations, all on company time with pay.

"Being able to come here while I was working and to get paid for it was a big bonus for me in getting my GED," says Glen Raven employee Herman Sabrowski. "That's probably the only reason why I did get it."

Employees say Glen Raven Mills not only cares about its profit, but also its people.

The LEAD program curriculum at Glen Raven Mills was designed by Vance-Granville Community College's workplace literacy department.