A conversation made concrete

PDCCC warehouse, distribution training facility opens

FRANKLIN

Over two years ago, Paul D. Camp Community College President Dr. Dan Lufkin and The Tidewater News Publisher Tony Clark had a conversation that became more than just talk. Their words — their ideas — were put into action and made concrete. On Wednesday morning, all that became official with the dedication of the Paul D. Camp Community College Regional Warehouse and Distribution Training Facility.

The site is not a new building, though, but instead the newspaper’s unused warehouse now repurposed. There are sessions available for forklift, reach truck and clamp truck operator sessions. Also, students can take Certified Logistics Associate and Certified Logistics Technician programs, as well as Warehouse and Distribution Foundations courses.

After thanking so many individuals and organizations for their part in making the project real, Lufkin said, “Clearly, this was a collaborative effort across many sectors, making this training facility project extra special and one that adds value to the economic ecosystem of our area. In this renovated space — designed and outfitted to replicate a real-world warehouse environment — we not only will be able to customize training to meet local employers’ needs, but more importantly, we will be able to help put people to work in meaningful jobs that allow for career advancement and pay a family-sustaining wage.

“Students and workers alike will learn hands-on about the skills required to succeed in the logistics business. Those who complete our affordable and accessible programs (that range from 3 days to 16 weeks) will have the required skills to improve work performance and be career-ready to fulfill the needs of the supply-chain industry.”

He reminded the audience that having a trained workforce is probably the most important element for when a business looks where it can be established. The facility will be one that site location consultants can witness.

“They will see that we — and I mean the collective we — are serious about building a pipeline of qualified, committed and highly trained workers that will help our businesses grow and thrive in a competitive market,” said Lufkin.

Clark later said, “I’m glad our company was in a position to contribute to this important project. Workforce development is a significant part of any community’s economic health, and I expect this new training center will pay dividends for years to come.”

John Reinhart, CEO and executive director of The Virginia Port Authority, praised the commonwealth as being “one of the best states to do business.” Referencing an upcoming report by CNBC, Reinhart also stressed that workforce availability and development are so crucial to companies.

His company, he added, “came up with a team to make this center a reality.”

Representing Gov. Ralph Northam was the Chief Workforce Advisor to the governor, Meagan Healey.

“I can’t wait to share this with the governor,” she said, adding that such a facility will have the power “to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Andrew Murrell of Franklin, a graduate of the college’s training at the previous location, told how his stepfather originally suggested the workforce center. He was especially thankful to the center’s career coach Lisha Wolfe.

“She got me into the fork-lifting program [from which he earned his certificate] and helped me build a resume. She did more than her job required,” said Murrell, who then got work at Franklin Lumber. Later, he decided to find a place that paid more, and with his training and experience, was able to get new work at the World Market in Windsor.

“It was a win-win situation,” said Murrell.

President and CEO of Hampton Roads Workforce Council Shawn Avery then presented a $20,000 check that will be used for student scholarships. He added that this will the first in an annual series of such contributions.

“It was a labor of love,” said Angela Lawhorne, director of the Regional Workforce Development Center next to the Franklin campus. She added that the scholarships will go a long way in helping students. She was especially grateful to Mike Renfrow of the Port Authority for leading a team that worked on the project.

With an award of appreciation in hand, Renfrow later said that the team — which included coworker Tommy Swankler and HR leader Jim Bibbs: “We did what it took,” he said, adding “You have the nicest people here [in Franklin.]”

Before the ribbon-cutting and tour, Lufkin urged everyone to take a close look at what’s been done.

“You will see some magnificent learning tools being demoed by our students and staff in computerized classrooms, on true-to-life forklift simulators, and with a warehouse management system. In addition to competency-based learning modalities, students will learn about OSHA requirements, and will receive soft-skills training in such areas as problem solving, teamwork, and interpersonal communications that will allow them to excel immediately upon placement in the workforce. And, all of this was made possible by so many of you here in attendance.”

Looking around during the site tour and demonstrations, instructor Wayne White said, “This is heaven. I know I’m tickled.”