SCC Back to Work program benefits wide range of potiential workers

By David Broyles

January 21, 2014

DOBSON — Surry Community College’s NC Back to Work program’s potiential to reach both ends of the workforce spectrum is summed up by 57-year old Tom Keen, who is learning the skills to return to the workforce while his 20-year-old daughter Abby is preparing to enter the workforce for her first time.

“The program (NC Back To Work) is set up in a condensed and aggressive form. Lou Giovannielo is a great welding instructor. I commend him for his knowledge of the job. He tells it like it is. This program is thorough and complete with classroom and (hands on) instruction.” said Tom Keen. “The orientation phase did a great job of showing us the soft skills and career readiness and job interview information to prepare us thoroughly. After just one week of this, the program shifted to welding with hands-on training as well as the classroom.”

The two said they hope to take the hard skills course in welding again to get better at their technique because they feel welding is a skill which will reward those who get better with more hands on training as “practice makes perfect.”

“As far as the class goes (for them) we are learning, but slowly,” said Tom Keen. “We have to master other technologies first. I don’t think we’re going to get certified this time around but we hope to make in on the second time. We want to get better at our welding technique and this is just how its worked out. We are learning a lot about safety and we have other training coming up, including forklifts.”

Keen said he felt this was a critical part of the strength of the program because of the added security of learning what to say, how to dress and practical job search skills. The two said they would like to also participate in the manufacturing technician program as well.

“I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Keen. “They’ve thought of everything. It’s a full service type of program. It will help improve the economy by putting me back to work doing skilled labor. Yes, there are jobs out there but for skilled people, I would recommend this program to anyone looking at specific areas of the workforce and I’d like to see it in all 50 states.”

Abby Keen said she went into the course after “never really having a job” and is looking forward to her first position.

“I’d like to take the course, improve my skills learned and get some money coming in,” said Abby Keen. She said being in a classroom with her father proved to be easy and she was surprised most of the work in the course has been hands on training.

She said she became interested in welding for some of the same reasons her father was, namely the prospect of starting in a good paying job without a lot of expensive college.

“I just have always been interested in welding,” said Abby Keen. “It’s hard work but I knew it’d be a good job. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve just got to get the technique down for certain and I’m good.” She said she had heard from instructors about the demand for women welders because of their greater eye for detail.

She agreed with her father about the importance of the program teaching “people skills” and job interview strategy. Both said that any additional training becomes another valuable asset to them and another skill to use to get employed.

“The response has been outstanding. I’m excited about the program. We have to keep it going, It’s that important,” said N.C. Back to Work Success Coach Dale Badgett. “We started with five and we currently have 45 persons involved in various stages of the program. This has went well.” He explained 21 persons had completed orientation, which is a requirement for a later welding class set for Feb. 10.

Badgett said the program’s participants range in age from 18 to 57 years and that the effort has been expanded to not only serve the long term unemployed, but those who are looking for first time employment. He said the next challenge for the effort was to locate more prospective employers.

Along with workforce development partners, five local manufacturing employers are currently partnering with Surry. They are Austin Enclosures, Elastrix, Leonard USA, Lydall and Pittsburgh Glass Works which agreed to interview program graduates for open positions within their organizations.

According to school officials, Surry’s NC Back to Work training program is focused on Manufacturing Production and Support with pathways leading to Certified Production Technician, American Welding Society Certification (MIG and Stick), Career Readiness Certification, OSHA 10 Certification and Forklift Certification. The NC Back to Work grant will cover tuition, fees, books and third-party credentialing fees.

In December, the announcement was made Surry had been awarded grant, which provides free job training and credential testing for North Carolinians. A celebration was held Dec. 4 in the Shelton-Badgett Center for Vitaculture and Enology marking the grant being received.

“In the future I hope to tailor the program to what the individual wants,” Badgett said. “Welding is specific for example, and the Production Technician program is more broad based. We want to keep the excitement going and we want to show the state what we can keep this grant. I feel our partnership makes this all possible.”

Badgett said partners include SCC, the NC Department of Workforce Solutions, Northwest Piedmont Workforce Development Board, the Department of Social Services, Goodwill, and Surry and Yadkin County Veterans’ Service Departments. Persons may obtain more information on the NC Back to Work grant by calling (336) 386-3253.

Reach David Broyles at or 3360719-1952.