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Rep. Foxx recognizes value in business, education at Catawba Valley Community College
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Rep. Foxx recognizes value in business, education at Catawba Valley Community College

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HICKORY – Building partnerships between education and business is the future for both, Catawba Valley Community College President Garrett Hinshaw said.

A good example of this is the initiative recently announced between the college and Affinity Living Group. The two institutions are working together to develop a job training program specific to the needs of Affinity, helping to grow its employees’ skill sets and to grow them as potential leaders in the company.

Hinshaw said this new partnership is another example of how education needs to turn itself inside out throughout the country.

“If we don’t start making that move now, higher education runs the risk of becoming obsolete,” the college president said.

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx recognized exactly what was happening between Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) and Affinity Living Group during her visit to the school’s ValleySim Hospital and Health Care training facility Tuesday afternoon.

She congratulated both on this new venture.

“This is something I’m talking about a lot and our members are talking about a lot. We want to talk with young people in particular but others too who are going back to get an education, maybe after they’ve lost their job, that they’re not just going into a job, but they’re beginning a career,” Foxx said.

“It’s so important because in so many cases we have lost that concept of you’re not going to do this job, your beginning job, forever.”

Securing and building careers is the focus of the partnership between CVCC and Affinity Living Group, headquartered in Hickory.

It is the 11th largest provider of assisted living in the United States, the sixth largest provider of Alzheimer's and memory care, and the largest senior housing provider in the southeastern U.S., according to affinitylivinggroup.com.

“What we’re trying to do with the college is develop an academy specializing in assisted living and trying to take the concept of education in the workforce and step it up from the lowest level when you come out of high school and progress them all the way to a nursing degree if that’s their desire,” Founder, President and CEO of the Affinity Living Group Charlie Trefzger said during Foxx’s visit to the college.

Affinity Living Group Executive Vice President Denis Rainey said one of the company’s biggest problems is staffing. He said the growing number of baby bombers who will be looking at assisted living will be like a “wave” in the next couple of years.

“We’re going to need, in addition to all the staff we have in the industry today, we’re going to need 600,000 more staff in ten years,” Rainey said.

“We want our staff to come and then grow. With the partnership we’re going to have here, they can start out with us as a personal care aide, CNA, they could become a med tech, they could become a supervisor, (and) they could become a care manager.”

Employees could progress up to executive positions in the company with the additional education they get through the new initiative with college credits and certifications.

Hinshaw said the college is looking for alternative ways to build stackable credentials that are going to mean something for students and local businesses.

“It’s working with the employers and asking them what they want. We want the employers to tell us,” Hinshaw said. “It’s just like with the furniture academy, we’ve had 100 percent employment rate of the people who finished and that’s huge in any program for sustainability.”

Foxx said health care is a good example of an industry benefiting from this approach to education because there is a natural progression of skills and credentials involved.

“When you got people in an organization who have done it, they’re great role models for this kind of success,” she said.

Robin Ross, CVCC dean of health and public services, said this new initiative is the first time the college has been part of a partnership of this nature in health sciences.

“We work now with Frye and Catawba Valley (hospitals) and do training for their employees,” Ross said. “But this is a very targeted type of initiative. We’ve been working on this for about six months, starting in the summer.”

The college hopes to launch the program sometime this winter on CVCC’s campus.

“Most people think of education as you have to come to school here, you enroll in these classes, you go from this time to this time, you take your tests,” Ross said. “What we’re finding is while that is still a good model, business and industry don’t operate that way.

“They have folks who have certain levels of skill and they either need to hone their skills or they need to learn new skills to be successful in their job.”

Ross said it’s been fun finding ways to meet those needs with specialized training.

This first rollout of sessions will focus on workplace success skills, conflict management, communication, team building and customer interaction.

“We’re taking a soft skills approach but tailoring it towards Affinity’s industry,” Ross said.

Because it’s direct training partnership with Affinity, CVCC is able to offer the courses at any time during the year.

For more information about CVCC, visit cvcc.edu or call 828-327-7000.

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