NC Manufacturing Institute: A Local Collaboration to Solve the Manufacturing Skills Gap

Studies conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) show that nearly 2.1 million jobs could remain unfilled by 2030 due to the lack of skills within the manufacturing industry. In fact, a 2020 study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education partner of the NAM, stated “The manufacturing industry netted a loss of 578,000 jobs during 2020—a figure that represents nearly six years of job gains, and yet, at any given moment in the past six months, nearly 500,000 jobs have remained open in manufacturing.”  

Leaders in Rowan and Cabarrus County took note of these skill gap discrepancies and recognized a need to address recruitment issues head-on in order to keep the industry growing and competitive with a community. In response, both counties banded together to develop The North Carolina Manufacturing Institute (NCMI). This initiative was conceived in the summer of 2014 by Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (RCCC) and Centralina Workforce Development Board. The initiative later included leaders from Rowan and Cabarrus County’s chambers of commerce and economic development, as well as stakeholders from Mitchell Community College, Iredell County’s Economic Corporation and the Statesville Chamber of Commerce. 

NCMI is an eight-week training program that teaches individuals essential skills to work in a full-time manufacturing industry job. The program is specially designed to link and leverage the existing assets of Rowan, Cabarrus and Iredell counties to solve a growing gap between regional job seekers and available positions. Its innovative funding and operational structure allow the Institute to deliver results in response to a rapidly growing need for manufacturing employees with certified skills and verified work readiness.  

Elements of NCMI’s training program include:  

  • Recruiting candidates from Cabarrus, Iredell and Rowan regional labor markets 
  • Screening candidates for workplace foundation skills 
  • Awarding full scholarships for eligible candidates 
  • Providing 168 hours of pre-employment training focused on workplace effectiveness skills  
  • Awarding a Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Certified Production Technician certification to students upon graduation 
  • Connect partner firms (employers) with program graduates 

The Results

Over 40 local employers are now partners with the NC Manufacturing Institute. Upon graduation, partner companies are invited to attend a reverse job fair, where graduates can meet with partners and see if an open opportunity aligns for both parties. On May 9, 2023, NCMI welcomed 25 employers to the RCCC Advanced Technology Center in Kannapolis for a reserve interview fair with the 12 recent NCMI graduates. Graduates had the opportunity to interview each of the 25 employers and discuss what each company had to offer and what a career in manufacturing looks like. Many graduates received job offers on the spot, with one NCMI graduate being offered five different jobs. NCMI graduate Hunter Bass said, “With this certification, I was able to find a job in the manufacturing field within one week after completion.”  

Moving Forward

Access to qualified talent presents a strategic advantage to manufacturing firms. Increased demand for manufacturing skills in North Carolina has the potential to affect the trend of steady growth in U.S. manufacturing industry. Regions can increase productivity and profitability by building a talent supply chain with the needed skills to fuel growth that allow them to then develop and retain that skilled talent over time. For more information or to register for the NC Manufacturing Institute, contact Lori Miller at or (704) 216-3668 or visit