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Catawba Valley Furniture Academy Ribbon Cutting

NEWTON, NC (Dec. 8, 2016)—Catawba Valley Community College and the local furniture industry celebrated the opening of the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy in Newton on Thursday, Dec. 8.
120816 Catawba Valley Furniture Academy ribbon cutting
The academy’s new location on Locust Street offers 38,000 square feet of space for a simulated manufacturing environment to train craftspeople for work in the furniture industry. CVCC, with support from founding industry partners Century Furniture, LEE Industries, Lexington Home Brands, Sherrill Furniture and Vanguard Furniture, launched the academy on CVCC’s East Campus in Hickory in 2014 due to a strong need for skilled workers in the local furniture industry.

There is a current need for 3,000 workers in the Catawba Valley furniture industry. The academy’s students are heavily recruited for positions with salaries ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.

Since the academy’s launch, 89 people have successfully completed the series of courses, and 100 percent of graduates have obtained employment in the furniture industry. Currently, 35 students are enrolled and many more are on a waiting list.

CVCC expects the new facility in Newton will allow an increased number of students to enroll in the academy each year.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by CVCC staff, furniture industry professionals, and local and state elected officials, including Gov. Pat McCrory.

McCrory spoke of the need to provide training for people who want to learn the skills necessary to acquire a good job. He also spoke of the tremendous number of talented people in Catawba County.

“This county gets it more than anyone else,” McCrory said. “If there’s someone on a waiting list [for workforce training], we’re going to meet your needs.”

“We have people who can build things and make things and design things and innovate things,” McCrory added. “We have this talent that is second to none…We have to continue to unleash that talent.”

CVCC President Garrett Hinshaw said the academy is “an exemplary example of the great things that we can do with business partners and higher education to move the needle in workforce development. This opportunity would not be possible without the leadership, trust, and commitment to quality education throughout the Catawba Valley region.”

“We spent several years working together with our partners to address a critical need in our economy,” Hinshaw said. “We continue to have a waiting list of individuals who want to get into this industry. Furniture manufacturing is a skill like no other. I’m proud to say that 100 percent of our graduates from this program, since its inception, have been hired within our community. Thanks to our partners and the great training education that’s occurring in this program, we are making dreams come true for these individuals. That’s really what we’re about here today: your community college, partnering with business and industry, to create a better socioeconomic status for our community, and also serving as an example that’s been replicated with other sectors throughout the region. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Catawba County Board of Commissioners Chair Randy Isenhower said the academy highlights the positives in Catawba County, including our heritage of manufacturing, our entrepreneurial spirit, our resilient workforce, and our strong support of higher education.

“When our workers get the training, they’re ready to go,” Isenhower said. “They have a strong work ethic.”

“CVCC is on the cutting edge of workforce development for Catawba County,” Newton Mayor Anne P. Stedman said. “Not only are they making advances with the furniture academy, but they’re also involved in the medical field, in entrepreneurship, and in the K-64 educational partnership. There’s so much going on at CVCC. I can’t say enough about what a strong presence they have here and how much we appreciate what they do.”

Lexington Home Brands’ Bill McBrayer serves on the State Board of Community Colleges and works closely with the academy. He said growing the academy has been a great adventure that represents the epitome of what partnerships between industry and community colleges should look like.

“I tell people all the time that we’re training and educating students not for a job, but for a career,” McBrayer said. “We’re changing people’s lives and in some cases, their family tree.”

Training at the academy is set up in an environment similar to an actual furniture manufacturing environment, making it as close to on-the-job training as you can get. Seven disciplines are taught at the academy, and each discipline can take 8-11 months to complete. Instructors are experts with a passion for their professions. They work their regular jobs in the furniture industry during the day and teach at the academy during the evening.

Community colleges across the country have been so impressed with the value of the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy that they have approached CVCC to learn how to create similar programs to serve other industry sectors.

View photos from the ribbon cutting on the city's Facebook page.

For more information about the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy, call 828-327-4000, ext. 4294, or email lprice@cvcc.edu. You may also visit www.cvcc.edu/workforce_development for course descriptions and class schedules.