It’s probably safe to say no parent is bribing a community college admissions officer to get their kid into a trades program. While the struggle over college admission and affordability rages on, community colleges are offering amazing opportunities for our children who would rather build, plumb and design.

The latest evidence of that is at Sandhills Community College, where generous grants from two foundations will ensure a kid can learn a skilled construction trade and come out debt free — and be ready for a job in an industry struggling to find skilled workers.

David Weiss, who sits on the college’s foundation board, has offered a grant through the Weiss Family Foundation, to subsidize tuition for construction trades students. The Palmer Foundation, long a supporter of such programs at SCC, is pitching in as well.

“The Weiss Family Foundation is proud to support the Construction Trades program at Sandhills Community College,” Weiss said. “There is an industry need for skilled construction trades individuals locally and nationally.”

“This is a well-paying job for men — and women too,” said Penny Enroth, chair of the Palmer Foundation. “The local contractors have expressed a need following the 2008 downturn in construction. Now, the market for new house construction has rebounded, assuring many new construction jobs.”

A Growing Market for Jobs

Indeed, the home building industry is in full gear across wide swaths of Moore County, driven primarily by active duty military or connected in some way to Fort Bragg. Most of that has been in southern Moore. Aberdeen’s population has more than doubled in the last 20 years.

Across central Moore, subdivisions are rising in Carthage, Vass and points east of U.S.1. Once Vass extends its sewer service, even more construction could rise there.

Have you tried lately to schedule a roofer, plumber or contractor to do a job — and stay at it without running off to work on another job? Good luck. Virtually everyone in the construction trades business is busy these days, the beneficiaries of a booming economy.

And yet, for a long time we’ve been demanding our schools turn out college-ready students who will go off to four-year universities. There, we’ve been engaged in an international competition to produce more doctors, engineers, scientists and high-tech workers than China, Japan and Germany.

At the same time, we’re finding that technology — led by breakthroughs in artificial intelligence — threatens the future of many of these high-skill jobs. College graduates today are not finding the same job markets their parents found, and some indeed may be headed for careers that might not last five years before a robot takes over.

Catalyst for Success

If we are headed to that kind of future, then maybe it is time to rethink what it means to “get an education” and a “good paying job.” They might have robots do surgery or handle legal paperwork, but they’re not going to come out to your business and install an air-handling system or build an addition on the house.

The donations to SCC underwrite an education in the construction trades industry that will help ensure we can provide good-paying jobs for students interested in the work.

“Reinventing how we look at this industry could be the catalyst to help rebuild America’s middle class,” says SCC president John Dempsey, president of Sandhills Community College. “We are grateful for Dave and Penny’s recognition of and commitment to this effort.

“As more people are made aware of the jobs available in this area and the earning potential, our students seeking this training will be positioned for successful futures and that is our mission at Sandhills — to maximize student success.”

All it needs now is for kids and their families to see this as an amazing opportunity and seize it.

(2) comments

Peyton Cook

Excellent editorial. Community Colleges have long been the source of students trained for tradesmen, which are in great demand. The work is hard, but well paid.

Kent Misegades

I run a growing manufacturing business in Aberdeen. What we lack most are skilled young people who can use their heads as well as their hands and have good work ethics and human skills. Many recent university graduates - including engineers - lack all of the above. CCCC in Sanford has excellent industrial degree programs and is packed full of sharp young people. Many will go on to run their own businesses one day, no four-year degree or college debt required. The focus at SCC seems more on liberal arts and sports.

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