'I'm in the life transformation business'
Plus: Teen Talk; Charlotte's top stories of the week
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Saturday Q&A: CPCC president Kandi Deitemeyer on enrollment drops, life in Charlotte and surging demand for welders and truck drivers
In a typical year, Central Piedmont Community College has about 56,000 people taking classes of some kind or another — pursuing two-year degrees, certificate programs, job training or life enrichment.
Obviously, there’s nothing typical about 2020, and effects have rippled down to CPCC. Enrollment this fall in its curriculum classes is down about 11%, and officials say they’ve seen drops in other areas, too — with potential students not wanting to take online classes and having other priorities during the pandemic.
While Kandi Deitemeyer, CPCC’s president, is watching closely what that might mean for the college’s budget, which largely comes from the state and county government, she says there are reasons for optimism. Deitemeyer, 52, has been president of CPCC since 2017, when she took over for longtime president Tony Zeiss. Her arrival in Charlotte followed stints at Davidson County Community College and as president of the College of The Albemarle, in northeastern North Carolina.
Deitemeyer spoke with Ledger editor Tony Mecia this week about what fields are hottest, how CPCC is preparing students for the future, a new grant announced this week and her impressions of Charlotte. Remarks were edited for brevity and clarity:
Q. What are you seeing in terms of demand from employers? What kind of shifts are you seeing, both pre-Covid and now? And what sorts of things are you doing to address those shifts?
We’re getting ready to launch an adult marketing campaign. In the last three or four years, our average age has gone from around 28 to around 21-22, because we have such a deep relationship and are really engaged with CMS.
We continue to see opportunities to build that out, for more families in Charlotte and Mecklenburg to take advantage of that.
But we do know and do anticipate that we have a number of adults that’ll want to come back and what we call “re-skill” or retrain. Some are thinking about different career paths, and they typically are looking for something more short-term.
They might not necessarily be looking for a two-year degree to go on to a four-year degree. Many will want to come and do what I call an entree career path, then be able to come back and begin to stack credentials on top of that. So whether that’s something in IT or something in healthcare, or coming in to do welding or construction trades, or culinary or hospitality.
Then they’ll come back and they might continue to add a credential to that, or then get a degree because a year from now they decided, “Well, this is a great career field for me. I see there’s a career trajectory, so I might want an advanced degree because I want to be in this industry and go into management or go to the next level job.”
So that’s really what we’re hearing. We’re also hearing from employers that there’s going to be a plethora of opportunity in terms of the job market, and they need talent.
Charlotte’s continuing to grow. Mecklenburg is a great place to come and live. And they want somebody who has a credential. They have talent, and they need them now. So something short-term to give them a skill base, and then the employers are saying they’ll continue to invest in them and send them back to Central Piedmont to get that next level of credential while they are continuing in their educational journey.
So especially for adults who are thinking about re-skilling, what I would say is talk to your employer that you’re at now and see if they’ll make that investment to get that next-level, short-term career opportunity.
I think employers are willing to make an investment in their employees to get them to the next level.
Q. What sorts of fields are you seeing interest in now? And what sort of fields maybe don’t have as much demand now? You mentioned hospitality and culinary — those are areas that are having a hard time.
People are choosing. They want something short-term. Business has always been hot. Accounting is definitely out there. But anything in IT, definitely.
Healthcare is a booming industry. Construction trades — that could be anything from plumbing to welding. All of those, because the jobs are available. People can make a great living wage and beyond in some of those construction areas.
We have a truck-driver training program that we can’t put people through fast enough. The jobs are awaiting them. We still have a lot of need and a lot of capacity in our public safety areas. Those are great careers as well that are going to be needed and necessary for our community.
Truck driving courses at CPCC are still conducted in-person. (Photo courtesy of CPCC)
Hospitality and culinary is a terrific program that we offer. You’d be surprised. Even though I know that was hugely impacted by the pandemic, we had over 600 students enrolled in the fall in some way, shape or form in our culinary and hospitality programs.
It’s kind of like, “What’s your passion? What’s your purpose? What do you want to do in life?” There are still people who see that as what they want to do. But they also see that’s a vibrant part of our economy and adds to the vibrancy of our community. We don’t see that going away.
Q. The college announced a grant this week from JPMorgan Chase. What will that do?
We have had a long-running relationship with JPMorgan Chase, probably since 2014, and their continued investment in our students and our program has just been exceptional. Today’s announcement was around another $700,000 investment to meet some of the needs for economically mobile career pathways.
The first part is around $500,000, which will help the college fully develop some new online training pathways around some of the top careers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
If you think about high-demand careers — especially around cybersecurity, some in the healthcare space as well as forensic accounting — we’ll be able to build those out in a very quality way.
The second component of the $700,000 is a grant for about $235,000, which is specifically the college working alongside and giving sub-grants to 11 nonprofits in Mecklenburg County who work specifically in different areas that support many adults and young people who might have needs for housing security, food insecurity, healthcare, legal services. Many of our students are struggling in those spaces.
Q. What’s going on with enrollment right now?
Very honestly, our enrollment is down.
Central Piedmont has had a robust and dynamic corporate and continuing education platform for a long time. But when your corporations are trying to survive and thrive in a pandemic, there’s not a lot of need right now for that kind of training. That has definitely been hard hit. Basic skills students, they need to be in-person, so that’s been a challenge for us. Enrollment is down there as well.
And curriculum: Our students need and want to be in person. We are very university-esque because of our wonderful facilities. Our students love to be on campus. We’re doing a great job online, either fully online or hybrid. There are some students who have still been coming to campus since March, especially in our technical areas. It’s kind of hard to train welding online, as you can imagine.
Q. Yeah, that sounds dangerous.
Welding, construction trades, health sciences, truck-driver training — all those things have still been meeting in person, and we’ve done it very safely. So enrollment, even in some of our basic curriculum classes, has been down. Students like to be on campus, and we anticipate once we’re able to do that, enrollment will rebound.
We’re cautiously optimistic and very hopeful. But we’re a bit concerned. We have had a lot of students who had to compassionately withdraw in March — a little over 600 on the curriculum side that we have not been able to get back re-engaged.
Q. I’m sure you love the field of education, but if you were 18 years old and you were heading out into the world and you were looking across all of CPCC’s programs, what would be the one that you would pick for a career?
I know you really want me to answer that question in one way. I’ve never hidden my faith, but I really believe that everybody has a purpose and everybody has a call. And so I would just say don’t choose a job based on pay. Don’t do it based on whether it’s hot today, because, as we know, that career could be gone in five years.
But listen, I also have a 7th-grader, so you’re asking me a question almost as a parent rather than as an 18-year-old.
I would say everything is going to have a component of technology. You need to be wise and understand the complexity of technology and how it is used in most industries.
Anything in healthcare. I think you’ll always have a great place to serve people.
And I’m in the life transformation business. That was the call of my life. That’s why I wound up in education. I would just say to people, “Make sure you want to make an impact in your life, with your life, on your community.”
My mother was a bookkeeper, and my father was in the construction trades all his life and raised five children, and I think they did OK. Those are terrific career paths as well.
Q. You’ve been in Charlotte for four years now. How have you found it? What’s your take on Charlotte?
It is the most amazing community. People have welcomed me and my family. They have invited me into a lot of different places, in terms of conversations or boards. So that’s been amazing.
It’s a caring community. In the four years I’ve served, the community has been really talking a lot about economic and social mobility, and the college certainly is a hub of that. I think we’re very serious about it. I have seen a tremendous amount of not only conversation but energy and actually action.
So that just warms my heart. What I do for a living, education, I think is transformational.
I intend for our family to be here for a very long time. I don’t see myself going anywhere. I’ve met some of the most important and impactful people in my life, and I am really grateful for the opportunity.
I still get excited every day when I get up and go to work because of what Central Piedmont means to the community, and the work that I get to be a part of. That’s a good place to be in life.
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Teen talk: Build your vocabulary
Impress and delight the young people in your life by using the words they use. The Ledger shows you how in this occasional Saturday feature.
Today’s word: “simp”
Part of speech: noun or verb
Definition: a person who is blatantly attracted to someone and will do anything to win their affection; can also be used to describe someone who has a crush on another person but is bashful about telling them
Used in a sentence:
Johnny is such a simp for that Instagram influencer that he gave her money so she’d acknowledge him in her feed.
Cindy is simping over Greg, big time. She keeps talking about him every chance she gets.
Person 1: How was your date with Rachel? Person 2: Great. I bought her a season pass to Carowinds so she’d go with me again. Person 1: Dude! You’re a total simp.
Ledger analysis: “Simp” can be loosely likened to a word used by older generations — “whipped” — to mean someone who is obsessed with or controlled by a love interest. The New York Times did a long piece on the history of the word “simp” last summer, breaking down its roots in the old word “simpleton” and explaining its current use as a misogynistic term to describe a man who throws attention or money at a woman.
—Cecilia and Andrew Bolling, ages 15 and 13
This week in Charlotte: CMS returns to all-virtual, statewide curfew takes effect, Mount Holly police officer killed, Covid’s toll on a high-poverty Charlotte high school
On Saturdays, The Ledger sifts through the local news of the week and links to the top articles — even if they appeared somewhere else. We’ll help you get caught up. That’s what Saturdays are for.
Covid numbers spike; N.C. imposes new curfew: (Ledger), (Observer) As many counties deal with escalating Covid numbers, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new statewide curfew from 10pm until 5am, which went into place Friday.
CMS returns to virtual learning: (Ledger) All K-12 Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools students will be returning to virtual learning until Jan. 19, the school board voted Tuesday. The move comes amidst a spike in Covid cases in Mecklenburg County, although there have been no reported Covid clusters in CMS schools.
Mt. Holly officer fatally shot: (WBTV) Mount Holly police officer Tyler Avery Herndon, 25, was shot by a suspect while investigating a breaking-and-entering call at a Gaston County car wash early Friday morning. He died a few hours later. The suspect, Joshua Funk, 24, faces charges of first-degree murder.
Jeff Jackson mulls Senate run: (Observer) North Carolina state Sen. Jeff Jackson confirmed via Twitter this week that he’s thinking of running for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2022. If Jackson, a Democrat, is elected, he would fill the seat currently occupied by Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who has said he won’t seek another term. Other Democrats signaling they will run or may run are state Sen. Erica Smith and N.C. Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls.
New Arrival: (Biz Journal) Electric vehicle manufacturer Arrival plans to locate its 150-worker North American HQ in South End and invest about $3M in Charlotte. The British-based company announced a new 240-job factory in Rock Hill earlier this year.
Situation in jails worsens: (Observer) The death toll for prisoners across North Carolina state prisons doubled since September, including four this past week, as staff struggle to contain Covid outbreaks inside their walls. Mecklenburg County Jail entered a 48-hour lockdown after 107 staff and prisoners tested positive for the virus.
Good read: Remembering longtime courts reporter: (Observer) Former Charlotte Observer courts reporter Gary Wright died Wednesday from heart disease at age 69. He was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist known for his incessant fact-checking and no-nonsense demeanor towards sources, yet he harbored a soft spot for young journalists breaking into the industry.
McCaffrey injured again: (ESPN) Carolina Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey injured his quad in practice last week and is unlikely to play Sunday against the Denver Broncos. McCaffrey, who was made the highest paid running back in NFL history this past offseason, has appeared in only three games this season so far.
This week in The Ledger:
Why the CMS board returned to all-remote learning: (Ledger 🔒) We transcribed the most salient comments by Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board members from Tuesday night’s meeting about why they voted the way they did regarding sending the district back into full-remote learning.
Covid places new burdens on Garinger High: (Ledger) An in-depth look at the effects of Covid on Garinger High School, one of the highest poverty high schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Some students are having to juggle remote learning and logging long work hours to support their families, and staff are struggling to keep teens academically on track.
Transit proposal breakdown: (Ledger) Charlotte is likely to face its first significant transit tax increase in 20 years, and this piece originally written for the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute by Ely Portillo breaks down what you need to know about the possible referendum and what would spring from it.
Big holiday fundraising lunches go virtual: (Ledger 🔒) Two of the city’s biggest annual holiday fundraising lunches were held online this week, and organizers were expecting to still bring in huge sums of money for charitable causes. (Ledger)
Ledger holiday party: Don’t forget — The Ledger’s drop-in online holiday party for our community of paying subscribers is Thursday, Dec. 17, from 5-7 p.m. We’ve arranged for drink specials 🍺 🍷 , with delivery anywhere in Mecklenburg County to add to the merriment. It’s on a tech platform called Wonder and is more interactive than Zoom. Details available here.
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