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‘Live here; thrive here’

JACKSON – A presentation here recently informed the Northampton County Commissioners during their regular meeting about a way to improve job skills for citizens of the county.

RAMP East (Regional Advanced Manufacturing Pipeline) is an initiative created by workforce development boards Turning Point—which covers several counties including Northampton—and Region Q, which covers Hertford and Bertie counties, among others. Angie Jenkins, a representative from Turning Point, explained the initiative to the commissioners.

“The major goal of this initiative is to fill the pipeline of workers,” Jenkins said.

RAMP East is a collaboration between the workforce development boards, local community colleges, NCWorks, and the Department of Commerce. The focus is on developing skills for advanced manufacturing jobs, which can provide higher salaries and other benefits that other locally available jobs cannot.

According to Jenkins, the initiative was created after explosive economic growth in Nash and Edgecombe counties brought more companies to the area. They anticipate more industry will follow in the region at large.

“If we’re going to bring industry to our areas, we need people to go into those industries. It’s going to require a different level of skill,” Jenkins added. “Not only is it preparing citizens to live here, but it’s preparing them to thrive here.”

The plan is to offer advanced manufacturing training at the eight community colleges within the region, including Halifax Community College and Roanoke-Chowan Community College locally. These courses would include topics such as soft skills, required mathematics, OSHA certifications, problem solving in manufacturing, and more.

“Halifax (Community College) is full steam ahead, let’s do this,” Jenkins said, explaining the Weldon-based college’s program will begin on Aug. 29.

Jenkins said one of the reasons she was bringing this to the commissioners was that Northampton County had not yet been fully represented at the RAMP East meetings even though several companies within the county could benefit from hiring more workers with the qualified skills.

After Jenkins’ presentation concluded, the commissioners asked a few questions.

Commissioner Nicole Boone wanted to know more about how high school students would learn about the RAMP East opportunity. Jenkins explained that in her recruiter position, she was the one working with the school system.

“Is this initiative offered to those individuals with a criminal background,” asked Commissioner Joyce Buffaloe.

“That’s not a focal initiative of RAMP East,” Jenkins answered, noting that there are other agencies which do give those individuals more focus.

She said their target audiences were primarily high school students, people who are underemployed, and the military.

The rest of the commissioners spoke briefly in support of the regional collaborative effort to provide more job skills, and they all agreed Northampton County should play a more active role as well.

“We can’t keep waiting for it to happen for us,” said Commissioner Geneva Faulkner who advocated for Northampton County to be more involved going forward.