Companies in Virginia’s I-81/I-77 Region Partner With Colleges to Design Customized Training Programs
Virginia’s I-81/I-77 region’s manufacturing base of automotive-related and other high-tech companies is taking advantage of its ability to mobilize and customize workforce development programs.
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Virginia’s I-81/I-77 Crossroads region is composed of five counties and one city in the southwestern region of the Commonwealth, with one of the leading trucking routes traversing the region; interstates 81 and 77 intersect in the region. The strategic East Coast location is a driving force in the resurgence of manufacturing. With access to three fourths of the U.S. population within a day’s truck drive, the region is primed for companies that need quick access to their customer base.
The region’s manufacturing base includes automotive-related companies using sophisticated technology to make precision parts for the world’s leading automakers, as well as high-tech companies in the plastics and aerospace/defense industries. To attract and support companies in these sectors, the region must provide a workforce that is skilled in these trades. This is where unique partnerships provide an advantage.
“The ability to mobilize and customize workforce development programs to meet the needs of both incoming projects and existing employers positions the region to increase the productivity and efficiency of our employers,” says Josh Lewis, executive director of Virginia’s Industrial Advancement Alliance. “Top tier suppliers in the automotive sector rely heavily on our college workforce development directors to respond to changes in technical skills required by advances in new CNC and robotic machinery.”
Companies like Somic America, a leading automotive components manufacturer and Tier 1 supplier to Toyota, have worked closely with Wytheville Community College on customized programs. Since making significant capital investment in new machinery and production in the region, Somic has worked with the college to provide CERT training on new Fanuc robotics.
“This is absolutely critical to the success of Somic and to our ability to provide an area where they can compete and grow organically,” Lewis explains.
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