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WILKESBORO — On June 30, Wilkes Community College announced a $194,029 grant from Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas. The funds will be used to connect students with hands-on training and career development opportunities.

The grant will allow the college to expand educational opportunities through the purchase of needed equipment associated with training individuals in the CNC machine operation and industrial maintenance fields. It will also cover the cost of tuition, books and materials that a student enrolled in an industry-approved apprenticeship would incur.

“Wilkes Community College is excited to have the opportunity to build and grow the apprenticeship programs of Apprenticeship Wilkes through this grant,” said Beth Foster, director of Work-Based Learning. “We continue to strengthen and develop partnerships with local manufacturing businesses to offer entry-level apprenticeships in CNC machine operation and industrial maintenance, and we are currently working with Gardner Glass and Interflex Group, with plans to add additional businesses soon.”

Apprentices in the program will earn certificates in the WCC Applied Engineering Technology program while receiving on-the-job training.

“We appreciate this generous grant from Duke Energy that will allow us to give our students meaningful apprenticeship experiences to connect real-world work experience with what they are learning in our classrooms,” said Dr. Jeff Cox, WCC president.

This grant is part of the $5 million Duke Energy/Piedmont Natural Gas Community College Apprenticeship Grant program announced in April 2017.

“North Carolina’s community colleges are essential to train the workforce that businesses rely on,” said Jimmy Flythe, Duke Energy director of government and community relations. “We are proud to partner with Wilkes Community College to help prepare students to meet the region’s evolving industrial needs.”

The apprenticeship grant program was administered by NC Community Foundation and Foundation for the Carolinas. Award decisions were made by a committee of representatives from Duke Energy, NC Community College System, and NC Department of Commerce.

Since 2004, Duke Energy has invested $45 million in North Carolina’s Community Colleges, with a focus on technical education and support of business and industry.

The Electric Utilities and Infrastructure unit’s regulated utilities serve 7.8 million retail electric customers in six states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The Gas Utilities and Infrastructure unit distributes natural gas to 1.6 million customers in five states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. The Duke Energy Renewables unit operates wind and solar generation facilities across the U.S., as well as energy storage and microgrid projects.

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