President of Nationally-Ranked SCC Talks Retaining Local Workforce with Rotary

on Friday, 04 December 2015. Posted in Recent Programs

Program Recap: December 2, 2015

President of Nationally-Ranked SCC Talks Retaining Local Workforce with Rotary

Don Thomas, President of Southwestern Community College, and Brett Woods, Director of SCC Foundation, joined Cashiers Rotary to update the club on SCC’s achievements and initiatives. SCC, which recently added yet another Top 10 national ranking to its long list of accolades, continues to be a shining light of Western North Carolina’s educational landscape.

President Thomas shared just a few of SCC’s many “Points of Pride” with the Club, including the school’s continued commitment and efforts to train and retain students that power the area’s local workforce. Nearly 90% of the school’s graduates stay local after graduation, a statistic that has a staggering $109 million impact on our community. 

Helping to foster a stronger local workforce is an issue near and dear to the Cashiers Rotary. The club recently overhauled their Rotary Scholarships program to include students enrolled in two-year associates and technical trade degrees, residents enrolled in continuing education programs, and currently employed members looking to enroll in job training certification programs and career advancement learning opportunities. Southwestern Community College is a key provider institution in furthering these goals.

SCC has a current enrollment of 2700 students, with an additional 9500 individuals benefitting directly from their training programs and services. As part of SCC’s “Train to Retain” program, they’ve developed customized training projects specifically for several leading manufacturers, resulting in more than 28,000 training contact hours per annum for 10 area businesses. 

The school is also home to the first accredited National Park Service Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program in the country, the recipient of the 2014 Rookie of the Year and 2015 Innovation Awards from the Small Business Center, and the repeating Top 5 finishing team in the National Respiratory Competition, which competed against teams from MIT, Johns Hopkins and other leading research institutions. Their Retention Action Teams program (RATs) is being presented as a national model for improving student retention rates at other institutions across the country.

In addition to honors transfer agreements with eleven North Carolina universities, Southwester Community College has also been the recipient of a number of grants and funding awards that will help further its mission to build Western North Carolina’s future workforce today. The school was among the first-ever recipients of the Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) to help fund outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

SCC was also the only community college in the nation to receive one of the much coveted NASA grants, news of which arrived just days after Southwestern was designated a “First in the World” grant recipient from the U.S. Department of Education.Other SCC programs to receive awards a NASA High-Altitude Ballon effort through N.C. State University, a Minority Male Mentoring program through the N.C. Community College System and a career counseling grant from Western Carolina University’s College of Education.

Southwestern, which WalletHub ranks among the Top 10 community colleges in the nation, serves Jackson, Macon, Swain Counties and the Qualla Boundary. For more information about SCC and the programs it offers, visit or call 828.339.4000.

The Rotary Club of Cashiers Valley is the area’s only purely service oriented organization. To learn more about the Rotary Scholars program, other service opportunities, or how to become a Rotarian, please visit