GREENSBORO, NC — October 13, 2011 – The first-ever Governor’s Innovative Partnership award came home to Sampson Community College this week courtesy of an ammonia refrigeration program and the visionary approach taken to bring a dream to fruition.
SCC president Dr. Bill Aiken, and community college partners Butterball Inc, Smithfield Foods, Prestage Farms, the Golden LEAF Foundation and the Community College System were touted for their commitment to needed training programs that helped both employers and employees during the awards banquet held Thursday night.
“You are a critical component of our success as we continually strive to strengthen North Carolina’s worker training system,” Gov. Bev Perdue wrote in a congratulation letter to SCC and the five other Governor’s Award winners, honored through the Excellence in Workforce Development program.
“Tonight’s award recipients have set a high bar for all of us to follow,” the governor noted.
In Sampson’s partnership, that bar was raised and raised again, as a desire to bring an ammonia refrigeration program to SCC became an oft-discussed desire, starting with officials from Butterball seeking to provide such training closer to home.
With only three other programs across the nation and more and more local companies needing workers trained, the desire turned into an all-out push, with Aiken leading the charge to forge partnerships that would bring the program, a facility, equipment and funding.
Aiken said what seemed impossible turned out to be easy thanks to a commitment from industry leaders, the state and the Golden LEAF Foundation, all who believed in the program so much that they brought financing to the table that was the key to making the dream a reality.
“The fact that this program is now operating and has trained 120 people shows what can happen when you bring a great group of individuals and industry together to address a need,” said Beverly Hinson, with Butterball. “We appreciate Sampson Community College for supporting our industry in this project and many others.”
Butterball’s Mike Lewis, in accepting his company’s award, also praised Aiken for leading the charge. “He was visionary in his approach. His efforts and his determination to get this done made this program happen.”
That sentiment was shared by Smithfield’s Dennis Pittman. Community College System president Scott Ralls and Golden LEAF’s Mark Sorrells, who all touted Aiken for his visionary approach to bringing the program to SCC and to industry officials who desperately needed it.
“We really appreciate Dr. Aiken for the leap of faith he took. Without his leadership, this program might not have happened,” Pittman said.
Sorrells, senior vice president of Golden LEAF, praised Aiken and the partners for laying the groundwork that made his group’s funding possible.
“They had a well-thought out plan that connected with industry and trained workers. It was a good partnership, which enticed us to get into the game,” Sorrells attested.
Sorrells pointed to three significant projects Golden LEAF had been involved in with SCC, including bio-tech, the ammonia refrigeration program and the truck driving, all projects geared to move the agricultural industry forward.
“And that fit well within our mission,” Sorrells said, noting that he had been very pleased with the partnership with SCC that, he said, had brought good results.
That the governor recognized SCC and the forged partnership between so many agencies and industries was just icing on the cake, Sorrells pointed out. “It’s the local effort, the local work and the commitment by so many that makes this program stand above others.”
SCC and its partners were one of nine nominated for the first-ever state award. They were touted for bringing the program to an area where such training was needed.
The training program, the award booklet noted, has become the primary ammonia training institution for all of Smithfield Foods, Prestage Farms and Butterball, and is providing a much needed service to many industries that use this technology. It also brings money into the county, with an estimated $600 per week or more being spent by trainees on food and lodging.
The program came to fruition, Aiken noted, because of the commitment of its partners. Those partners provided financial contributions to the program: Butterball, $100,000; Prestage, $50,000; Smithfield, $100,000; the Community College System, $900,000; and Golden LEAF, $300,000.
Aiken said the program’s success is due to the partners’ commitment to the facility and the fact that they each have identified the program as their primary choice for training employees.
“Without these partners, this program would have never been possible. Their commitment is much appreciated,” Aiken said.