WILKESBORO — Wilkes Community College and GE Aviation have been named the 2020 Distinguished Partners in Excellence Award recipients by the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges.

The award, established by the State Board of Community Colleges in 2006, was created to honor a company, business or industry group and its community college partner(s) whose joint efforts have resulted in significant benefits to the professional development of its employees, or individuals pursuing job training/retraining for future employment.

Only one award is given each year.

GE Aviation opened the West Jefferson facility in 2007 and underwent a $56 million expansion from 2015 through 2017. The current 200,000 square-foot facility manufactures rotating parts for commercial aircraft engines and employs over 270 people.

During its expansion, GE Aviation partnered with Wilkes Community College to develop and facilitate training for 105 new employees and 100 incumbent workers.

WCC offered courses on all shifts to accommodate GE Aviation’s production schedule machining lab. GE provided technical training for WCC instructors by allowing access to their facility to observe operations which yielded improved curriculum and instruction.

The project resulted in 135 new jobs and was followed by a second customized training project that has resulted in 75 additional new jobs to date.The average wage for these positions is $35,000 per year plus benefits.

Through this partnership, WCC benefited by developing a relationship with GE Aviation, received funding for new equipment, enhancement of programs and experienced an increase in enrollment.

WCC’s Ashe Campus expansion will include a state-of-the-art CNC Machining lab for future training for GE Aviation and other industries.

WCC manages and schedules all pre-hire training courses for GE Aviation, including coordination of their pre-hire assessment through a third-party agency.

“Our collaboration with GE has allowed the college to add instructional resources and improve the skills of our faculty,” said Chris Robinson, Vice President of Workforce Development at WCC.

“Together, we have created a workforce development model that has been shared across the state. Most importantly, however, our students have become GE employees and have the opportunity for a great career in a world-class industry,” Robinson added.

GE Aviation’s presence in West Jefferson is one part of its larger North Carolina footprint. Durham, Asheville and Wilmington all serve as key supply chain sites for the company.

In total, GE Aviation employs more than 1,700 people in the state. An April 2017 study found that GE’s presence in North Carolina supports nearly 18,000 jobs and is equivalent to $7.2 billion in economic output.

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