Summer Externships Provide DCCC Faculty with Insight into Davie Co. Employers

Kerry Smith Outside Ingersoll Rand

July 23, 2014 – Davidson County Community College manufacturing instructor Kerry Smith recently gained valuable insight into how his students should prepare for jobs at businesses in Davie County. Through the Partnership for Workforce Development, Smith participated in externships at five local companies in June and July. These externships allowed him to observe various types of careers and form relationships with key leaders who can offer internships and jobs to DCCC students.

The Partnership for Workforce Development is an initiative of the Davie County Economic Development Commission to support continued economic development in the county. It provides high school and community college teachers with immersion experiences in industries like advanced manufacturing, health care, logistics and distribution. They take the experiences back to their campuses to inform the curriculum and better prepare students for the jobs available in these industries. David Koontz, a teacher from Davie County High School, also participated.

“Our mission was to find out about and understand the different jobs they have at each facility and the skill set they are looking for to hire workers out of high school and community college,” Smith says. “We’ll be able to use what we’ve observed to identify gaps in our curriculum that we can improve and reinforce the things we are doing right to prepare our students for these industries.”

The externships started in June at the VF Corporation distribution center in Mocksville, a facility that ships jeans to retailers nationwide. Smith watched workers unload incoming trucks, route products through complex conveyor lines, place them on shelves, and then package orders and send them out. He also observed the e-commerce section, management and other support functions such as maintenance and scheduling.

Next, Smith visited Davie Medical Center, where he suited up in scrubs and observed a tonsillectomy and cataract surgery. He learned about the variety of skilled employees the medical center needs, including nurses, patient relations representatives and trades workers to manage the heating, cooling and electrical infrastructure as well as the equipment.

Third, Smith went to Ashley Furniture’s manufacturing and distribution complex in Advance, where he says skilled workers are needed and the jobs are in demand. He toured the large plant on a golf cart to learn about support jobs in maintenance, engineering, auto mechanics, marketing and supervision – all positions students from DCCC are prepared to fill.

Finally, he visited Ingersoll Rand, an advanced manufacturing facility that makes parts and assembles air compressors. There, skilled machinists are needed to run tools that create parts; people with measurement skills are needed for quality control; maintenance technicians are needed to keep machines running; and engineers are needed to design products, maintain and create processes and establish workflows.

Smith says a common theme surfaced during his externships that he plans to share with his colleagues at DCCC – soft skills, such as communication and teamwork, are more important than ever to businesses hiring in Davie County.

“There was a resounding theme among all the businesses we visited,” says Smith. “In their search for employees, they want to know if you can work well with others, show up to work on time, communicate well and work in a team environment. They’ve raised the bar. It’s not only the technical skills, but the soft skills that are important, and we need to make sure we’re teaching that in our classes.”

Smith and Koontz will wrap up their externship experience by creating professional development presentations to share with the faculty at their schools and later providing evidence that their experience has been incorporated into the curriculum.

The Partnership for Workforce Development is sponsored and funded by a grant from the Mebane Foundation through the commission’s five-year economic development plan.

Founded in 1963, Davidson County Community College is noted for its quality educational programs and services. As one of 58 institutions within the North Carolina Community College System, DCCC offers studies in more than 50 degree programs. A fully-accredited, multi-campus college, DCCC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 and is looking forward to serving students in Davidson and Davie counties for many years to come. The college is committed to developing minds, inspiring imaginations and preparing students for enhanced career and educational opportunities within a changing global environment. Visit Davidson County Community College at