customized training

Nick Wooten uses a microscope in KACO's quality control lab to examine a seal manufactured for the automotive industry. KACO is one of nine Lincoln County industries to benefit from the Customized Training Program at Gaston College. 

DENVER – Gaston College has offered its Customized Training Program to regional industries for more than two decades, and with the recent boom of manufacturing companies planting roots locally, the number of Lincoln County participants has tripled in an instant.

“In Lincoln County, we’ve grown from having just three participants to having nine in the past 18 months,” Gaston College Business and Industry Training Coordinator Emily Hansley said. “We’re actually in the process of working out a deal with three more prospective participants right now, so it’s a very exciting time for Lincoln County, for sure.”

Customized training programs are offered through each of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges, with funding provided by the state.

“This is something that the state does to help keep businesses in the specific city or county where they currently reside,” Hansley said of the program’s origin.

The program is a part of Gaston College’s Center for Workforce Excellence, which provides education and training opportunities for eligible businesses. The program offers training services to help new and existing companies maintain a well-trained workforce to remain productive and profitable into the future.

“Each company that’s approved for the program has a project, and the funding for that project is based on whether they’re making a capital investment, if they’re expanding, or the work they do in the community,” Hansley explained. “The state distributes the funding to the colleges, which are responsible for arranging the training, and that’s my job.”

The training ranges from basic skills needed to work in any manufacturing plant, which can be provided by local trainers employed by the college, to more advanced robotics and industry-specific technical training, which often requires bringing in an outside vendor to provide the teaching.

“We’re doing different types of training almost every day,” Hansley said. “I work with each specific company to devise a plan through a needs analysis that shows where their gaps in training are, and we build the project based on that. With The Timken Company, for example, they routinely bring in new machinery that their employees need to be trained on, so we’ve had to bring in specialized trainers to provide training that’s 100 percent customized to Timken’s needs.”

While Gaston College has the resources to provide most of the training on its campuses, the work is done on-site at each company’s manufacturing plant more often than not.

“Most of the time we prefer to provide the training at their facilities just because that eliminates any lag time between employees being on the floor and in the training room,” Hansley said. “We find that it’s easier to provide the training on-site at each particular company because the training is done on their machines, which are set up the way they like because each machine is different.”

In nearly two decades, Gaston College has increased its number of regional employees trained from 355 in 1999 to 5,131 in 2018. A recent report provided by the N.C. Community College System’s office lists Gaston College as the second largest provider of customized training projects within the 58-college system.

In Lincoln County specifically, 2,315 employees were trained through the program last year. More than $350,000 was provided by the state to support those local training efforts.

HYDAC, a German manufacturer of cooling systems that operates a plant in Denver, is one local industry benefiting from the program.

“Customized training was pretty unique overall for HYDAC,” the company’s Human Resource Generalist Laurie McGee said. “HYDAC has many locations around the world, but we are the only division in the U.S. that does the cooling aspect. We produce a unique product for our customers, so our training has to be specific, and for our management team, Gaston College’s training customization, flexibility and resources are the real draw. We are grateful for this partnership because we’re able to provide training for employees at no cost to our company.”

Gaston College offers more than 85 training classes through the program. Company representatives Interested in learning more about training opportunities should contact the Center for Workforce Excellence at or by calling 704-922-6448.


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