DOBSON — Surry Community College recently received a grant to be used to help students affected by tobacco industry changes.
Director of Occupational Programs Terri Cockerham explained Project Skill-Up is a training program sponsored by a grant to the North Carolina Community College System from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund and is specifically designed to provide short-term training leading to employment to students who participate.
“We received funds in the amount of $15,000 and the grant started Jan. 1,” said Cockerham. “We plan on using this grant until the end of December or when the funds are spent. Typically 25 of the state’s 58 community colleges receive the grant which is submitted to the state by the North Carolina Community College System.”
Skill-Up training areas may include employability skills, BioWork, health care, computer skills, Ed2Go certificate classes, small business development, truck driver training, industrial maintenance, and other short-term continuing education and curriculum programs. Financial assistance may include tuition, fees, books and materials.
Information from the trust fund indicates Project Skill-Up has helped 125 people obtain education towards career goals. Training plans are individually designed, based on each student’s employability goals and may include one or more courses depending on the student’s program of interest.
“The target population (for the grant money) remains continuing education students who have been negatively affected by the decline of the tobacco industry in Surry and Yadkin counties,” said Cockerham. “The next group we hope to benefit from this grant could include the next of kin of the farmers affected or those in tobacco related industries who have been affected.”
She said Surry Community College typically uses the funds to help students who enroll in programs over 96 hours that lead to an industry recognized certification or state certification. Cockerham said this is the fifth year the school has received such a a grant.
“One of the ways we reach the target population is to partner with North Carolina Extension which directly pulls in farmers,” Cockerham said. “An example of this was the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) program held last year which was targeted to farmers wanting to participate in Pilot Mountain Pride and the Commercial Vegetable Production 101 course for small scale vegetable farm growers.”
Cockerham said the college is looking to offer this class again in the spring because it was so successful. She said response to Project Skill-Up had been good with them receiving a lot of requests for information on the program. Cockerham said it has been particularly helpful to continuing education students who do not receive Pell Grants.
“I feel this has been successful in helping our students enroll in these programs,” said Cockerham. “A lot of folks who want to enroll in classes such as this are not aware of the extra costs of background checks, uniforms and other additional charges so they appreciate the help on their tuition.”
She said students benefiting from the grant are changing their lives with the opportunities made possible through Skill-Up. She pointed to Debbie Meredith, a Certified Nursing Assistant II student in 2012 at SCC, as an example.
Meredith explained she grew up on a tobacco farm and helped her parents and neighbors in the fields and at the barn. “I appreciate the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission helping me at this time in my life,” said Meredith in 2012. “The past few months have been hard with my husband’s death and losing my job, but having my CNA II credentials will help me in the future.”
Persons interested in information on Project Skill-Up may contact Sherry White at 336-386-3399 for more information.
Reach David Broyles at dbroyles@civitas media.com or 336-719-1952.