By Anna Fletcher
Courier-Times Sta ff Writer
A new education and business partnership between Piedmont Community College and Spuntech Industries will match students in their second semester of study with practical, mutually-beneficial part-time employment at the manufacturing company.
Founded in 1996, Spuntech produces high-quality, non-woven spun lace fabric that may be used in a variety of products, ranging from HVAC filters and medical gauze to disinfecting wipes, cosmetic face masks and baby wipes.
The partnership agreement was signed on Monday to approve the paid internship program for one academic year, ending on May 17, 2019. At that time, the relationship will be evaluated by each entity’s leadership, and future plans will be made based on these evaluations.
According to the agreement, qualifying students in PCC’s Associate of Science, Associate of Arts and various Associate of Applied Science programs may apply for the internship, which will provide them with a degree of financial stability, as well as enhanced workforce training and experience. Spuntech will, in turn, receive a pool of burgeoning skilled professionals and an increased potential for full-time employment.
“I’m so excited to have another arrow in our quiver to be able to meet workforce development needs in our area,” said PCC President Dr. Pamela Senegal. “This is such a creative way to meet that need, and I love that our students are being valued for what they’re doing.”
Not only will the program take advantage of PCC student potential, it will also benefit the local economy, says Spuntech Human Resources Manager JoEllen Crowfoot.
“We’re just really looking forward to the partnership and getting it off the ground and keeping some local Person County folks coming here to work,” she said.
Interns who are accepted into the program must meet several qualifying criteria, including self-discipline, a desire to work, a dependable and conscientious work ethic, critical thinking skills and a commitment to their education. They must maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher and must have completed approximately 50 percent of a PCC degree.
According to the college’s Dean of Arts, Science and University Transfer Karen Sanders, PCC instructors will recommend students for the internship, and the college will forward those recommendations to the manufacturing company.
Spuntech will then schedule the interviews and worksite visits after evaluating the applications.
‘Another building block’
One of the draws to this opportunity, Sanders says, is that students will be able to earn a level of income, continue their studies and work toward a future profession – all at the same time.
“Our students are very excited about the possibility of more guaranteed type of employment while they’re in school, with a potential future when they get out,” she said.
For several years, PCC has upheld a partnership with Spuntech through the college’s continuing education program. With this new agreement, Senegal says, that partnership is growing.
“What’s different about this is we traditionally recruit for manufacturing jobs from our skilled pro- grams or vocational programs, and this is a little different,” she said. “This time, instead, we’re looking from the pool of our Associate of Science, from our Associate of Arts students… This is just another building block on what we’ve already been doing with our programs that already exist at the college.”
Currently, Spuntech has three interns from the college’s vocational programs, says PCC Electrical Power Production Technology and Electrical Systems Technology Instructor Mac McCormick.
They’ve provided positive feedback about their experiences at the manufacturing plant so far, he says.
Students in the new internship program will be trained in a variety of positions at Spuntech, Crowfoot says, including positions on the line, in the maintenance area and up front. Placement will depend on what an individual student’s skill set is and what they’re looking to do, she says.
She expressed her enthusiasm and appreciation at the signing for the ongoing partnership, as did Senegal.
“I appreciate what Spuntech is doing – what they’re paying [PCC students,]” Senegal said. “What a great opportunity for students to get these high-skilled jobs.”