The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 4, 2012

New ECC facility will enhance training


TARBORO — With Edgecombe County’s unemployment rate more than six percentage points higher than the national average, local officials continue to push for ways to create jobs for out-of-work residents.

Edgecombe Community College wants to maintain its role as a leader in training future workers by adding a Workforce Training Center on its Tarboro campus.

The 24,000-square-foot facility would house the college’s public

safety programs as well as serve as a temporary site for small businesses and new manufacturing industries moving to the area.

“There’s a need for more room for public safety programs,” says Dr.

Randi Dikeman, dean of corporate and community development.

“We also plan to offer incubator facilities for business and industry. We will have very flexible space for either small business or some

manufacturing areas.”

To help pay for the $6 million facility, Edgecombe County

commissioners have proposed a quarter-cent sales tax increase, which will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. If passed, some of the funds will go toward the Workforce Training Center and a new Biotechnology and Simulation Center on the Rocky Mount campus.

The Workforce Training Center’s large training rooms will be used by the college’s public safety instructors. In the past year, Edgecombe Community College has added 30 percent more public safety classes, according to Lee Darnell, public safety coordinator.

“We expect at least that big of an increase over the next year, too,” Darnell says. “Space is becoming an issue. There’s a big demand for

larger equipment, but there’s nowhere to put it.”

Firearms simulators, fire equipment, and “ambulance boxes” take up large areas, he explained. An ambulance box simulates the back of the vehicle to give students more realistic settings during training. At present, instructors borrow a real ambulance in between emergency calls.

Public safety instructors also teach in the college’s mobile

simulation lab, which can accommodate just a few students at a time.

“In addition, we’ll have more specialized classrooms,” Darnell says. “We’ll have lab rooms with tables and sinks.

“I’m looking at several new programs that would need dedicated

classroom space.”

With its current limited space, Edgecombe Community College trains about 1,200 individuals annually in the public safety industry. About 95 percent of all Edgecombe County public safety workers receive training at the college.

“Most of those classes are on weekends or at night,” explains ECC

President Dr. Deborah Lamm. “The new facility would enable us to be much more flexible. We need more large rooms for simulations.

“Our community needs public safety courses, and Lee Darnell wants to make sure we’re developing more training programs that meet the needs of the area.”

Any current large-scale training classes must be dismantled daily

because instructors often share spaces.

“If they could leave their training equipment in dedicated areas, it

would be much more efficient and effective,” she adds.

For business and manufacturing, large open spaces would allow the

college to offer industry work cells. “They would be wired appropriately so businesses could move in and set up small production lines temporarily,” Lamm says.

In addition, the new Workforce Training Center could accommodate

public meetings of 100 or more participants.

Lamm admits that any tax increase during challenging economic

times requires careful consideration. But, she believes the benefits of the quarter-cent sales tax increase outweigh the impact it will have on Edgecombe County residents.

“Citizens won’t be taxed on all items,” she explains. “It’s not

going to be on food, gas, motor vehicles, agricultural machinery, or on a service or labor. It will be on other products.”