CCC&TI celebrates 50 years of service
by Anna Oakes
The community college that serves Caldwell and Watauga counties turned 50 years old on April 2, and leaders are taking time to reflect on past successes while gearing up for more in the future.
"I am most proud to see so many people in these two counties that have taken advantage of opportunities that have been made available to them," said Edwin Beam, the CCC&TI founding president who served from 1964-1984 (and again in 1994-95). "It's a credit to the people of this area that they want to raise themselves from their own bootstraps."
The history of the North Carolina community college system dates back to the 1950s, when the state and country were transitioning from an agrarian economy to a more mechanized economy. Three industrial education centers -- one each in the west, east and Piedmont -- opened to help facilitate that transition, said Boham, who has served as CCC&TI president since 1995 and has worked in the community college system for 33 years. The General Assembly then passed legislation in 1963 creating the state's community college system.
CCC&TI opened its doors in 1964 as Caldwell Technical Institute. The college first began offering classes in 1966 in health occupations and adult basic education, and cosmetology soon followed, Beam said. By fall 1967, enrollment reached 260 curriculum students. College transfer courses were added in 1969, and the name Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute was introduced the next year.
Today, the college enrolls 5,734 curriculum students, 10,583 continuing education students and 1,928 basic skills students, and it employees 350 full- and part-time faculty and staff.
"I would say we are one of the older institutions in the system," Boham said. "We're the 16th largest of the 58 (N.C. community colleges)."
Initially, the college served Caldwell, Watauga and Avery counties, Beam said, but Avery was later incorporated in the service area of Mayland Community College.
"One of the things we tried to deal with initially was to see if we could be of some assistance to the furniture industry," said Beam, and a committee of industry leaders formed to advise the college, which developed programs in upholstery and communication and leadership training for supervisors.
The college has since expanded its offerings to include more than 100 curriculum programs and a variety of corporate and continuing education courses, offered by day, night and online. CCC&TI has added programs and services over the years to shift and adapt to the changing local economy and needs of job seekers and employers.
When the presence of the area's furniture industry began to decline significantly in 2008 or 2009 due to continued outsourcing overseas, CCC&TI developed its culinary arts program, with many former furniture employees training to be chefs and bakers.
"At one point in time, you could go to the furniture industry, and you would be hired, and if your work ethic was good, and you kept your nose clean, you had a job forever -- is what everybody thought," Boham said.
"(But) these were people in their late 40s, 50s, having to make a complete life change.
"That changed the employee-employer relationship forever," Boham added. "There used to be a time when the standard was (people) changed jobs about five times. Now, people change professions about five times."
Other signature offerings at CCC&TI include the truck driver training and electrical lineman programs, and the college's medical programs are known for being of great quality and for having high student pass rates. Boham said last month that the college is applying to offer a hospitality management program.
CCC&TI also works closely with area high schools, including Watauga High, to offer courses to high school students in career and technical education and to satisfy general education requirements at universities.
"We're known for being innovative, and one of the innovations is our partnership with Watauga County Schools and Caldwell County Schools," said Boham. "It gives high school students the opportunity to take courses while they're in high school to jumpstart when they come here or to acclimate themselves to collegiate-level work."
The college's current facilities include the Caldwell campus on U.S. 321 in Hudson and the Watauga campus, located on Community College Drive off of the N.C. 105 Bypass. This summer, CCC&TI is slated to complete its newest building on the Watauga campus, allowing the college to consolidate its programs within one location of the county.
"That will be the first time that all our services and everything we provide (in Watauga) will be on one piece of property," Boham said. The Watauga campus represents one-third of the college's total student enrollment.
The Watauga campus last month played host to the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce's monthly Business After Hours event, drawing hundreds of people to what chamber leaders called the largest After Hours attendance ever.
The community college launched its Annual Fund Campaign in early March, urging supporters to give $50 extra this year in celebration of the college's 50th birthday. At the Chamber of Commerce After Hours last month, Wells Fargo of Boone Market President and chamber board Chairman Jason Triplett announced a gift of $5,000 from Wells Fargo to the campaign -- which represents 10 percent of the $50,000 goal for Watauga.
The campaign's total goal is $350,000. For more information about the campaign, call (828) 726-2203 or visit http://www.cccti.edu/foundation.
"The support in both Watauga County and in Caldwell County has been amazing to me," said Beam. "It's something worthy to be supportive of and participate in."