Skip to main content

New Community College Partnerships Provide Opportunity for Students, Industry

By Sarah Stone

Two new partnerships will establish a pipeline between one of the United State’s hubs for textile manufacturing and the institution that trains that industry’s top talent. 

Wilson College of Textiles Dean David Hinks joined Gaston College President John Hauser and Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) President Garrett Hinshaw to sign four new agreements during a ceremony today in Dallas, North Carolina. 

Two years at Gaston College or Catawba Valley Community College + two years at Wilson College = a textile education second-to-none

A bilateral articulation agreement with Gaston College ensures that all students who complete the community college’s textile technology associate in applied science will have their first two years of credits count directly towards the Wilson College’s textile technology program. After studying at the Wilson College for two additional years, they’ll earn their bachelor’s in textile technology

CVCC and NC State are partnering to create a similar “2+2” program. Students who complete an Associate in Science degree will have those two years of credits apply directly towards the college’s fashion and textile management degree, with a concentration in brand management and marketing.

The first class of students eligible for this program will enroll in Gaston College or CVCC in the fall of 2022. 

Dual enrollment means dual support for community college students

Both Gaston College and CVCC also entered into their own Community College Collaboration, or “C3,” articulation agreements with NC State today. 

A C3 is a dual enrollment program. CVCC students will enroll at NC State while completing their Associate in Science degree in Hickory. Gaston College students will enroll at NC State while completing an Associate in Arts, Associate in Science or Associate in Engineering degree in Dallas. All of those courses will seamlessly transfer toward a bachelor’s degree when they ultimately transfer to NC State. Students involved in the C3 program are guaranteed admission to NC State if they complete their associate degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. 

Through dual enrollment, both CVCC and Gaston College students will have access to advising and other resources through NC State. For President Garrett Hinshaw, that translates to a more accessible, less intimidating path to a bachelor’s degree for first-generation college students. Nearly one-third of community college students are the first in their family to pursue higher education, according to a report from the Association of Community College Trustees.  

“Being an open door institution, we’re open to everybody. We take students where they’re at and move them to where they need to go,” Dr. Hinshaw says. “And the opportunities that can be provided by North Carolina State University are unbelievable.”

The new partnership with CVCC marks the first time NC State will establish a C3 program with a community college located outside of the Research Triangle area. 

The first class of students eligible for this program will begin their coursework at CVCC or Gaston College in the fall of 2022. 

In a region with historical ties to the textile industry, modern-day demand exists for advanced manufacturing jobs

Initiating these partnerships with community colleges in the Piedmont of North Carolina was anything but coincidental. The state’s robust textile industry is historically rooted in the region. Today, more than 300 textile manufacturing employers exist in the 12 counties located in the Piedmont region and employ about 20 thousand people in total, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s more than any other region in the United States. 

“These community colleges are exceptional in serving their communities, have long-standing textile experience and programs, and are also located in the epicenter of the U.S. textile industry today,” Dr. Hinks says. 

The programs, and the pipeline of textile talent that will result from them, could not come at a better time. Both Gaston and Catawba Valley colleges just revived their textiles curricula last year in response to demand from the local economy.

“The reasoning behind that was the number of jobs in that field of study,” Dr. Hauser explains. “There are local companies in our two counties and beyond that were looking for employees, not from just the entry level, but the advanced levels as well.”

Dean Hinks says this shortage isn’t unique to North Carolina-based manufacturers. 

“We hear from all segments of the textile industry in the U.S. that they are in urgent need of talent at all levels,” he says. 

Developing a diverse textile workforce for a better North Carolina

The new partnerships will also help diversify the student body at the Wilson College. 

Students dually enrolled through the C3 program will be eligible for NC State scholarships, and many will be eligible for a Textile Pioneer Scholarship. This $14,000 scholarship is given each year to prospective Wilson College students from Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties in North Carolina. Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties are considered “in economic distress” by the state’s department of commerce. Scholars also receive $4,000 in enrichment funds heading into their first year. Throughout their time at the college, they benefit from dedicated mentoring and support, as well as internships.

“Students from rural North Carolina are more likely to go back and support the economy of rural areas in North Carolina,” Hinks says. “My anticipation, and my hope, is that students who graduate from these programs will also be a driver for economic vitality in rural North Carolina.”

This post was originally published in Wilson College of Textiles News.