WCC Finalist for Bellwether Award

WCC Finalist for Bellwether Award

Wayne Community College is a finalist for a national award that recognizes best practices in community colleges.

The college’s apprenticeship program has been named a finalist for a Bellwether Award in the Workforce Development category. Its submission was titled “Apprenticeships: An Integrated Academic Cohort Model.”

Bellwether Awards are presented annually by the Bellwether College Consortium (BCC). According to the consortium, the award “focuses on cutting-edge, trendsetting programs worthy of replication.”

WCC’s program is one of 30 Bellwether Award finalists. According to the BCC, “The national competition brings a level of excellence that demonstrates the innovative spirit and results-driven mindset that exists among our finest community colleges.”

“Wayne Community College is honored to be named a Bellwether finalist. This prestigious award recognizes innovative efforts that focus on student success,” said WCC Interim President Patty Pfieffer. “Being named a Bellwether finalist is a magnificent affirmation of the dedicated work we have done to educate our students and, in turn, improve our community. I am extremely proud of this institution, and more specifically, our faculty, staff, and students.”  

The Workforce Development category in which WCC’s apprenticeship program is a finalist recognizes strategic alliances that promote community and economic development.

WCC’s integrated academic apprenticeship model provides apprentices with academic credit and on-the-job training in industrial maintenance occupations. Apprentices are employed full time while they attend class one day a week to earn industry certifications and work toward an associate in applied science degree.

The goal of the apprenticeship program is to supply a skilled workforce for a growing industry in a community that is facing flat population growth combined with increasing retirements while also providing an avenue for advanced training and financial betterment for employees.

WCC currently has three maintenance technician cohorts with Smithfield Foods and one with a consortium of employers. The model has been replicated in three other states by Smithfield Foods. Based on the success of the program, Smithfield Foods was named 2020 Employer of the Year by ApprenticeshipNC.

In January 2022, delegations from the finalist institutions will present about their programs at the BCC’s Community College Futures Assembly in San Antonio, Texas. The programs will undergo a second and final peer and expert review and one winner will be selected from each of three categories.

In addition to the Workforce Development classification in which WCC is competing, the categories are Instructional Programs and Services and Planning, Governance and Finance.

WCC is one of three North Carolina community colleges named finalists for the 2022 awards.   Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory and South Piedmont Community College in Polkton will be competing in the same category as WCC and South Piedmont Community College is also a contender in the Planning, Governance and Finance category.

Community colleges from 19 states submitted entries for the 2022 competition.

This is the third time in four years that WCC has been recognized by the Bellwether College Consortium. In 2019, the college’s Quest Academy was a finalist in the Workforce Development category and in 2018, the college’s Clearing a Path to Student Success Initiative was a finalist in the Planning, Governance and Finance category.

About the Bellwether College Consortium
The Bellwether College Consortium is comprised of award-winning colleges charged with addressing critical issues facing community colleges through applicable research and the promotion and replication of best practices addressing workforce development, instructional programs and services, and planning governance and finance.
For nearly 30 years, the Bellwether College Consortium has convened the Community Colleges Futures Assembly as an independent national policy forum for key opinion leaders to work as a think tank in identifying critical issues facing the future of community colleges, and to recognize Bellwether finalists and winners as trend-setting institutions.

Smithfield Foods Maintenance and Engineering Talent Acquisition Specialist Jose Rivera and Senior Director of Engineering Joel Miller watch as William Wellman of Fayetteville signs a contract to join the apprenticeship program with Smithfield Foods and Wayne Community College (left to right).
New Smithfield Foods apprentice Cesar Diaz (right) shakes hands with Wayne Community College President Patty Pfeiffer while other college administrators congratulate his fellow apprentices at the conclusion of their signing ceremony in August.