05/24/17 — Wayne Community College president measures progress

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Wayne Community College president measures progress

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 24, 2017 9:57 AM

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Dr. Thomas Walker Jr., Wayne Community College president

Nine months into the role as Wayne Community College president, Dr. Thomas Walker Jr. had only praises for the institution.

"I'm really happy with how the college has performed," he told the board of trustees Tuesday night.

Commenting on the eventful months since he took the reins Sept. 1, 2016, he said one can't forget the natural disaster a few weeks later, referencing Hurricane Matthew.

"We can't forget even though it seems like a long time ago," he said. "There's still people that are still recovering from that."

And yet, there has been a resiliency demonstrated across the campus, whether in areas like Basic Skills or pre-curriculum programs, he said.

Walker said he had discovered that of all students who have received academic awards, curriculum awards, 41 percent of them started out in the pre-curriculum area.

"A lot of students are coming here with a lot of ground to cover in terms of academics and they're getting it done," he said.

He said the college programs overall are performing well, although over the past two or three years, enrollment has declined.

Because the college's mission is to provide not only education but workforce training, he said his office is taking a hard look at employment preparation for the future.

"We want to be able to show that by the actual numbers of students that are moving into these jobs," he said.

WCC not only grooms workers for Wayne County, Walker pointed out, but regionally as well.

He offered up a list of the fastest growing occupations for eastern North Carolina between 2016 and 2026, with the No. 1 job being registered nurses. Others right behind it include nursing assistants, post-secondary teachers, medical secretaries, emergency medical technicians and paramedics and first-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers.

The data being collected by his office is also important as it connects to curriculum and continuing education programs that prepare students for occupations in the areas of education, vocational, medical, health and business.

Continuing education is one of the fastest growing areas, particularly in short-term training.

Enrollment in that area increased by 66 percent over the past year, Walker said.

"We're probably one of the predominant trainers of substitute teachers in the county-- 76 individuals received substitute teacher training," the president said. "So our partnership with Wayne County Public Schools runs deeper than just our articulation agreement and delivery of courses."

The college also provided training in law enforcement to 1,048 students and customized training to such local business and industry as Uchiyama, Mission Foods, Mt. Olive Pickle, Case Farms and Cooper Standard Automotive.

Between that and its ongoing building projects, grants and scholarships awarded to students, WCC also boasted its largest graduating class in its history, he said.t its recent spring commencement ceremonies, he said the institution handed out well over 1,200 degrees, diplomas and certificates.