ROCKINGHAM — Will Collins said one of the most important things his father ever told him was that success was built on relationships.
And it’s the relationships between Richmond County Schools, Richmond Community College and local industries that led to the county earning the designation of being a Certified Work Ready Community by NCWorks.
“What you’ve done is established relationships…working on strengths,” Collins, assistant secretary of workforce solutions for the N.C. Department of Commerce and executive director of NCWorks, told a crowd of local education and industry leaders during a certificate presentation luncheon Thursday at Pattan’s Downtown Grille.
Dr. Jeff Maples, associate superintendent of Richmond County Schools, said the district’s Career and Technical Education Advisory Council has worked to help create a pathway for students to leave high school, go the the community college and be prepared to become successful in the workforce.
“It’s a big moment for everyone that’s been involved,” Dr. Dale McInnis, president of RCC, said about the certification.
Richmond is the 19th county in the state to receive the certification since April of 2015.
McInnis added that Richmond is the only county in the region which is certified as a Work Ready Community.
“Nobody else does what we’re doing,” he said. “This is just one milestone in a journey that will never end.”
The other 18 counties are Wayne, Lenior, Craven, Gaston, Greene, Jones, Pamlico, Cleveland, McDowell, Rutherford, Chowan, Duplin, Onlsow, Alexander, Caldwell, Halifax, Hertford and Lincoln.
According to the Work Ready Communities website, Scotland County has attained 94 percent of its goals in working toward certification; and Lee County has attained 100 percent of its goals, but is not yet certified.
“When it comes to recruiting industry in the 21st century, a local, skilled workforce is one of the most valuable resources a community can offer,” Ashley-Michelle Thublin, public information officer for Richmond County Schools said in a statement. “And, now that Richmond County is a Certified Work Ready Community, that’s exactly what we can provide for prospective industries.”
To earn the distinction, Thublin said, the county had to:
• receive a letter of commitment to workforce excellence from county leaders;
• progress its high school graduation rate;
• meet its National Career Readiness Certification goals; and
• gain commitment from local employers saying they’ll recognize the NCRC.
Thublin said the certification signals that skilled workers in the community are ready to fill jobs that are in demand.
That signal is something that makes county Economic Developer Martie Butler’s job a little easier.
She said one of the first things potential industries ask about when considering moving here is about the workforce.
“We have an awesome team here…from high school to college to business and industry,” she said. “There’s 100 counties in this state looking for that same thing.”
Butler also credited the county commissioners for their “forward thinking” in creating the industrial park — which is home to several companies, including the soon-to-open RSI Home Products.
“The designation is a milestone for the educators and employers of Richmond County,” RCS Superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman said in a statement. “We’re a united community dedicated to developing our workforce and creating economic growth in our region.”
During the meeting, many of those involved gave their thanks to Sharon Johnson, RCS career and technical education director, for spearheading the distinction.
“It began at (a) CTE Advisory Council Meeting, with Richmond County applying in March of 2015,” Johnson said in a statement, crediting Richmond County Schools, Richmond Community College’s Lee Eller, the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce’s Emily Tucker and Seth Allen, “as well as many other individuals in the community” in the team effort of securing the necessary 45 local businesses needed to earn the certification.
“Our ultimate goal is to improve Richmond County’s overall workforce and industry,” she added.
According to Thublin, the county’s National Career Readiness Certifications far exceeded its necessary goal of 551. Students from Richmond Senior High School, Ashley Chapel Educational Center and Richmond Early College collectively earned 2,178, she said.
“This is Richmond County at its finest,” said Ken Hartley, plant manager for Therafirm’s Hamlet site and chairman of the CTE Advisory Council. “This certification…is a game changer. It will carry us forward…secure our future.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.