DCC hoping to boost precision machining in Southside with four-year degree program

By Colter Anstaett - Southside Bureau Reporter

DANVILLE (WSLS 10) - In September, Kyocera SGS announced that it is locating its North American Strategic Manufacturing Hub in Danville thanks in large part to the precision machining program offered at DCC.

But while the program is ideal for the company and others like it, it lacks one key component.

"Producing engineers that are specific to manufacturing needs," said Kyocera SGS Chief Technical Officer Jason Wells.

There are currently no colleges or universities in the state that offer a manufacturing engineering degree and there are only a handful of colleges and universities across the Southeast which offer that program.

Consequently, students who go through DCC's precision machining program or other similar programs will likely transfer to four-year universities and become mechanical engineers, which poses a problem for companies like Kyocera SGS.

"What we find is," said Wells, "a lot of times we get young engineers fresh out of a college program and then have to invest another eight months to a year in teaching them things like what a kaizen is, what lean practices are, what six sigma means."

DCC's precision machining program director, Troy Simpson, hopes offering a four-year manufacturing engineering degree will help eliminate this and help the industry grow, creating more opportunities for people in Southside.

"It would be a great asset. One, to provide manufacturers with the type skill mix that they're looking for, but also to provide the citizens of our community a place to earn their manufacturing degree here in Southside Virginia," explained Simpson.

The first step is getting the state to agree to study whether such a degree would be feasible for DCC to offer. The college's president, Dr. Bruce Scism, said that is going to be tough because some four-year institutions are not fond of community colleges offering four-year degrees.

"I know there's opposition to it, particularly among some of the four years and among some of the private four-year institutions," Scism explained. "Although they don't offer the degree there, they're opposed to the community colleges getting into the business."

The college is working with Delegate Danny Marshall to get the request introduced to the General Assembly. WSLS 10 reached out to Delegate Marshall's office Monday for a comment but was told that he was not available for an interview.

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