Groundbreaking Held for Center for Innovation
Officials from Edgecombe County, the Town of Tarboro, local industry, and Edgecombe Community College gathered on the College’s Tarboro campus October 5 for a ceremonial groundbreaking for ECC’s new Center for Innovation.
About a hundred gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony. Oakley Collier Architects is designing the 23,000-square-foot facility, and Barnhill Contracting Company is the builder.
Dr. Jerry Price, chair of the Edgecombe Community College Board of Trustees, welcomed the crowd. “An important mission of the College is to provide modern facilities to train skilled workers, and this cutting-edge facility will be a major step forward for the College and the citizens of Edgecombe County,” he said.
“The new Center for Innovation will enable the College to better meet the changing workforce needs of local businesses and industries. The facility will serve as the hub for workforce training,” he said.
Planning for the new center began in early 2016, explained Franki Joyner, construction administrator for Oakley Collier Architects. “Working with faculty, we began to establish needs in advanced manufacturing and robotics. Work modules in the new facility, for example, will simulate real-world work environments.”
In addition to the advanced manufacturing work cell, the facility will contain a computer integrated manufacturing lab, instrumentation lab, hydraulics and pneumatics lab, electronics lab, motor control lab, and logistics/simulation lab.
Oakley Collier is currently completing design, and occupancy is targeted for spring 2019. “The Center for Innovation will be an icon for new industry in Edgecombe County,” Joyner added.
ECC President Dr. Deborah Lamm explained that the Center for Innovation will be the training site for high school and college students, creating a pipeline for workers in advanced manufacturing. Education and training will align with current industry standards.
She explained, “According to the National Association of Manufacturers, there were 460,200 manufacturing employees in North Carolina in 2016, with an average compensation of $69,417 in 2015.
“Yet, there are 390,000 vacant manufacturing jobs across the United States. Excellent jobs exist in Edgecombe County and across the state and nation in manufacturing.”
ECC and Edgecombe schools already collaborate to expose students to manufacturing careers. Beginning in the ninth grade, students can take high school courses that map to college-level courses.
Currently, forty-two Edgecombe high school juniors and seniors are enrolled in college courses in advanced manufacturing, including electronics, electrical wiring, welding, HVAC, programmable logic controllers, and safety.
ECC offers four advanced manufacturing programs: manufacturing technology, electrical systems technology, industrial systems technology, and facility maintenance.
The Center for Innovation will take current training to the next level in a facility designed to simulate the manufacturing environment with the capacity to upgrade to next-generation equipment.
“Above all else,” Dr. Lamm said, “the Center for Innovation will be the heart of all things manufacturing focused on the specialized training that’s required to meet the demands of a knowledge-based workforce, a technology-driven workplace, and a continuous-improvement-oriented management philosophy.”