Classes Begin at Advanced Film ProgramAugust 27th, 2014 by Casey Flores
One of the window film manufacturing capitals of the world is getting a boost to its workforce with a partnership between public education and private companies.
Classes for Patrick Henry Community College’s (PHCC) new Advanced Film Certification program began Tuesday. The program, which launched in April, now has 47 students enrolled.
“We are so excited about this program. It has been a driven industry and the excitement in the whole community is great,” says Rhonda Hodges, vice president of workforce, economic, and community development at PHCC, who oversees the certificate program. “[These students are] guaranteed a job interview if they finish the program so we’re thrilled that people are coming in and taking advantage of this opportunity.”
And according to Charles Fraley, a human resource manager at Eastman who also serves as adjunct faculty for the class “Introduction to Manufacturing & Advanced Films Technology,” the first day went “fantastic.”
“It was great. [We had] a wonderful group of people [who were] highly engaged. The vast majority of individuals who were there were there specifically because they had an interest working in the advanced film industry,” Fraley says.
The program was started in an effort to meet Eastman Chemical Co. and Commonwealth Laminating and Coating’s (CLC) expected shortage of employees.
“We see a demographic shift in our workforce with baby boomers retiring. New generations of workers don’t have the skills to fill the gap,” says Fraley. “In 2013, Eastman announced a $40 million investment in our site and made a commitment to hire an additional 25 new team members over the next three years. We believe the program will play a very active role in helping us not only find skilled workers for the new jobs, but also help us maintain a consistent workforce as skilled employees retire or move to other positions … We like to approach recruiting from a proactive state, so our hope is that the graduates completing the program [who don’t get hired immediately] will become our applicant pool for future openings. This will allow us to minimize the turnaround time for open roles.”
Lisa Lyle is the director of recruiting and marketing for the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation (EDC). She says this program will be exactly what the area needs to grow economically.
“That’s what the challenges to growth are here. When we ask [companies] the question, ‘What’s your challenge to growth?’ Nine times out of 10, it’s a workforce issue. That’s why [the EDC] is so involved in this,” Lyle says.
Of the 47 students enrolled, 20 are participating through a duel-enrollment partnership PHCC has formed with local high schools and 27 are students beyond high school.
Hodges is impressed with the way the program has come together in such a short amount of time.
“One thing that is exciting to me is the collaboration and the employer engagement in this program. [Everyone] pulled together to move forward very quickly. We launched the program in April and here we are in August with 47 students,” she says. “It’s really the way educational programs should be developed. I think it’s a model.”
According to the EDC, Eastman is the area’s second largest employer with CLC not far behind. Hodges says that though unemployment in the city of Martinsville is so high (11.2 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), it’s not necessarily due to a lack of open positions.
“There are jobs in the area but they [require] specific skills so having the employers work with us and develop this training program gives people a pathway to those jobs in a community that has been devastated [economically]. It provides hope,” Hodges says.