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home : news : education October 15, 2019

8/3/2019 7:01:00 AM
College's Customized Training Helps Gaston, Lincoln Counties
Making a difference for work force
Hannah Thurauf (left) is the senior human resources professional, and Lacey Kastel is the environmental health and safety leader at Owens-Corning in Dallas.(Photos Courtesy Gaston College)
Hannah Thurauf (left) is the senior
human resources professional, and
Lacey Kastel is the environmental
health and safety leader at
Owens-Corning in Dallas.

(Photos Courtesy Gaston College)
Latoya Connors is Gaston College’s co-ordinator for continuing education/business and industry training for Gaston County. Her Lincoln County counterpart is Emily Hansley. 
Latoya Connors is Gaston College’s
co-ordinator for continuing education/
business and industry training for
Gaston County. Her Lincoln County
counterpart is Emily Hansley. 

Lincoln Herald Staff

DALLAS, N.C. - It’s come a long way.

Back in the 1980’s, there was some cynicism among business and industry leaders around the country about the effectiveness of customized training programs. Leadership and managers were comfortable with developing partnerships with community colleges and utilizing their expertise. But they were concerned about the time, cost and possible waste of budget resources because companies themselves were not ready for changes in their organizational management or company culture.

And according to spokeswoman Stephanie Michael-Pickett, Gaston College’s customized training program is a proven leader in developing long-term partnerships that are beneficial to companies in Gaston and Lincoln counties and that support economic development in the region. The program is a part of the Gaston College Center for Work Force Excellence that provides education and training opportunities for eligible businesses. The program’s dedicated staffers offer training services to assist new and existing companies so that they remain productive and profitable and can maintain a well-trained work force.

Under the leadership of college president Dr. Patricia Skinner, the college increased the number of regional employees trained from 355 in 1999 to a projected 5,131, an increase of 1,120 percent, by June 30. In addition, new jobs created for Gaston and Lincoln counties will total 765.

As reported in a recent update by the North Carolina Community College System’s office, Gaston College is currently the second-largest provider of customized training projects within the 58-college system and is first in the system’s southwest region. Figures from May reveal that the college is delivering customized training to 16 employers in Gaston and Lincoln counties that will create 765 new jobs while training 5,131 employees. The data breakdown for each county reveals that Gaston County has eight projects, 341 projected new jobs and 2,816 employees trained. Lincoln County has eight projects, 424 projected new jobs and 2,315 employees trained.

Gaston College’s program utilized $770,394 in state funding to support its business and industry partners. Of that funding, Gaston County used $416,951, and Lincoln County $353,443.

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Lacey Kastel, the environmental health and safety leader at Dallas’s Owens-Corning facility, recently talked about the program.

“Prior to the construction of our plant and hiring our employees, we started a partnership with Gaston College,” said Kastel. “Safety training was an important part of our hiring process. The college helped us to target the top candidates we wanted to hire through a training process that gave us an opportunity to see employees on the floor and working with equipment. Our employees were much more prepared and ready to interact with equipment and components.

“It’s a smooth transition each year with our partnership,” she added, “and our safety department does not miss a beat. Gaston College is very open to feedback. We tell them if we have a problem with an instructor or the training. They want to know how they can do better, and they do what is best to meet our expectations.”

Laurie McGee is the human resources generalist for Hydac in Denver.

“Customized training was pretty unique overall for Hydac,” said McGee. “We have many locations around the world. But we are the only division in the U.S. that does the cooling aspect. We produce a unique product for our customers, so our training has to be specific.

“For our management team, the college’s training customization, flexibility and resources are the real draw,” she continued. “We are grateful for this partnership, because we are able to provide training for employees at no cost to our company.”

Maureen Little, the vice president of economic development for N.C. Community Colleges, also commented.

“Each year,” said Little, “Gaston College’s customized training team is a leader across our 58 community colleges in serving business and industry. This year is no different, with 16 active projects and three that are completed. Employers in Gaston and Lincoln counties know to turn to Gaston College for assistance when they have work force concerns, and the college continually delivers. These partnerships are yielding a greater economic impact for the two counties, the region and the state of North Carolina.”

Business and industry companies that would like to develop a partnership with the college’s customized training program should contact the Gaston College Center for Work Force Excellence by e-mail at or by telephone at (704) 922-6447.

You can also reach business and industry training services by contacting associate vice president Dr. Justin Arnold, also at the center, by e-mail or telephone respectively at or (704) 922-6448.

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