Congratulations to Wytheville Community College for being chosen as the NC3 October 2021 School on the Rise! Wytheville Community College, located in Wytheville, Virginia has been an NC3 Leadership School since 2016 and has since implemented an astonishing 57 industry certifications. The school’s massive success is a true testament to the incredible passion and dedication of its teaching staff and administration. Wytheville Community College is an outstanding leader in Career and Technical Education in their region, and their faculty have excelled in providing superior academic resources to their students and surrounding community.
Since joining NC3’s network in 2016, Wytheville Community College has grown its Career and Technical Education Program at an incredible rate. In that time, they have added certifications in Lincoln Electric, Greenlee, Snap-on, 3M, mikeroweWORKS, and Trane.
Perry Hughes, Vice President of Workforce and Occupational Programs, has been working in education for 26 years! He says, “Career and Technical Education is definitely in my blood and something that I aspire to make sure our students have opportunities in. The ultimate goal is getting them jobs and getting them to work because if we’re able to do that, then they’re citizens who are giving back to society and that’s kind of a goal I’ve always had for all students I’ve had over the years.”
Perry explains how he learned about NC3 and why they ultimately chose NC3 Certifications to implement into their CTE Programs. He states,
I actually went to the Leadership Summit with the two other vice presidents here at the college. Once we went, it was like okay we’ve got to make this happen. It’s been a priority from that point forward. I don’t think I’ve missed a Leadership Summit since then. I’ve also made sure that our instructors have the opportunity to attend Train-the-Trainer events since our initial visit. We’ve been a huge proponent of NC3 and it’s really helped us step up our game as far as the level of equipment quality and having brand recognition throughout our entire facility. I think that’s one of the things that really helped us become who we are today. We’ve seen exponential growth, especially on the workforce side, and I attribute a large part of that to the fact that we’ve embedded a lot of what NC3 provides into our training programs.
Michael Morrison, Powerline Worker Training Instructor, started in education about 5 years ago. He says, “I worked on power lines for 21 years and then was able to come to Wytheville Community College to start the line program. I’ve always been in some type of teaching; I was a forman and was teaching the trade, so my transition here to the college was not much different. I was still teaching a trade but I could slow down the pace and really be able to teach the students instead of being on the job at a fast pace trying to pull them along. I like to say, the students leave here having been successful in learning a trade that can make a difference for them and for their community.”
Michael continues with his perspective on why NC3 Certifications are such a benefit to his students entering the field. He says,
NC3 Certifications showcase that students have gone through the process of learning, and when they go into the field, employers understand that they already have the necessary knowledge, it’s not just their word… they have documentation behind it. A lot of the certifications we give can be applied directly to what students will be doing on the job and there’s so much they can offer to the industries. Employers really look at that. We’ve even had some industries that want their employees to earn certifications, so it’s a process, and I think the certifications really make a difference.
John Ferguson, Machine Technology Instructor, is actually also an alumnus of Wytheville Community College! He says, “I’ve been here for six years, and before I worked here, I worked in the aviation and manufacturing fields making jet engine blades. I graduated from Wytheville back in 2015 from the machine technology program. After that, I went on to further my education, went and worked in the industry, and then I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work for the college to pass on knowledge to the students that can hopefully get them great jobs and help local manufacturing in our area.”
John’s view on NC3 Certifications is focused on the benefit of having credentials from industry leaders that employers are able to easily recognize. He says,
For the NC3 Certifications we offer, the big thing we really enjoy is that while there are other certifications out there that employers don’t recognize, NC3 certifications are recognizable. It’s not necessarily that others aren’t good certifications but employers might not recognize the name(s) on them. When Snap-on or Starrett are on a certification, those companies are widely known, and even if the employer might not be aware of what NC3 is, they know exactly what Snap-on is and it looks really good for our students who have earned that certification when applying for jobs.
Perry adds to that sentiment by explaining what advantages he sees from the administrative side. He explains,
From an administrative standpoint, one of the reasons we’re so big on certifications here is resume enhancement. We get so many young students who come in with a high school diploma and a little bit of work experience but they really have nothing to put on a resume. By embedding NC3 certifications into our programs, our students leave us with a resume that’s loaded with industry-recognized credentials. It’s confirmation of not only completion of our programs, but it also showcases that our students have other nationally recognized credentials that really help set them apart and it gets them interviews. You can’t get a job until you get the interview, and I’ve always been a proponent of giving everything we possibly can to a student to support them. I think NC3 has really helped us build that into a much broader base of opportunities we can provide our students.
In the state of Virginia, there is a high demand for industry workers, and the staff at Wytheville recognizes that as a huge opportunity for their students. Michael explains,
There’s a high demand for workers across the industry in our area because the current generation is retiring and there’s no one to take their place. The opportunities for our students are there and the trades have been neglected in the past because students thought the only way to get a good job was to go to a 4-year college, which is just not the case. I’m not trying to discredit a 4-year education, but we need the backbone of America back and by doing this important work, we’re meeting the demands of the industry. I always tell my students to take advantage of everything they’ve learned because there’s one thing they can’t take away from you… and that’s your knowledge.
With these opportunities developing momentum within the community, Wytheville Community College has witnessed an increase in enrollment. Perry says, “Over the past 10 years or so, more students are gearing towards the technical trades. We’re seeing large growth, and it’s not only in the two-year degrees, but it’s also in short-term training that gets a student ready for the workplace, and we have employers lined up waiting for our students to come out. I think a lot of it is driven by job opportunities, and having a knowledge of those job opportunities.”
To support students who are seeking out these new opportunities, Wytheville Community College has made it a priority to ensure that no student is left behind. Perry explains, “The state of Virginia has put a lot of money aside for workforce program financial assistance. One thing we’re really proud of at Wytheville is that we are continuously one of the top 15 most affordable two-year colleges in the United States, and we work hard to make sure we find whatever financial assistance we can to ensure students are able to attend our school.”
So, what makes Wytheville Community College stand out amongst other institutions in their region? Michael Morrison says, “We do everything we can to make sure that students are successful. I think that’s what makes a difference and is why we stand out. Every staff member at Wytheville is focused on making sure our students have what they need to succeed.”
Perry adds to Michael’s statement by saying,
We’ve worked really hard to ensure we have quality equipment in every program that we run, especially on the occupational side. We’re heavily invested in ensuring we have top notch equipment in our labs, and we consistently spend a lot of money trying to increase the quality of our equipment so that when a student does come into one of our programs, they’re working with the latest and greatest. We also have a great team here with quality employees… from top to bottom! We have a caring campus overall, and it’s beautiful on top of that. We sit right at the foot of the mountains; looking in any direction, there are large, breathtaking mountains visible from our campus.
Wytheville Community College has other exciting things on the horizon too. Perry reports, “We have an automotive program starting at the end of November, and more than half of the certifications offered in that program will be through NC3.”
Perry adds that their school has already sent the instructor who will be overseeing this new program to several of NC3’s Train-the-Trainer classes to get things up and going. They also have a large grant opportunity that will hopefully allow them to invest a large amount of money into a new industrial maintenance automation training facility on campus.
Wytheville Community College has exhibited exceptional efforts in improving the lives of its students and the prosperity of its community, and NC3 is honored to have them as an NC3 Leadership School we’re proud to recognize as NC3’s October 2021 School on the Rise. Congratulations again!
Stay tuned for our next School on the Rise recipient in November 2021!
Questions about NC3’s School on the Rise? Please contact Erika Staackmann, Customer Success Coordinator, 847.533.6985, Erika.Staackmann@nc3.net