A-B Tech pilot program in Spanish looks to fill thousands of vacancies in the manufacturing industry

Broadcast on WLOS, March 7, 2022

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — The Asheville area is full of jobs for those looking for work right now.

There are 20,000 jobs available in the region on any given day, said Nathan Ramsey, director of Mountain Area Workforce Development.

Thousands of jobs are vacant in manufacturing, which is why Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech) has started a pilot program recruiting Hispanic trainees interested in good paying jobs and willing to take machining classes as well as English as a second language.

“We know that employers are willing to hire people with less than perfect English skills,” said Rebecca Loli, A-B Tech director over Transitional Studies.

“Even though we’re teaching in Spanish, some of the equipment, the alarms the diagnostics, the settings are written in English," said Danny Mancuso with A-B Tech's Engineering and Applied Technology.

It’s why the class that currently has about nine trainees includes two teachers. One is teaching machining in Spanish and a second teacher is teaching Spanish-speaking students machine instructions and buttons on machines that are written in English.

“We’re seeing a tremendous growth for consumer goods and industrial goods around the world.”

Mancuso said the result is expanded shifts and higher pay at local plants.

Ramsey spoke on March 4 at a Council of Independent Business Owners (CIBO) meeting, saying there are 10,000 fewer job candidates in the job pool now than prior to the pandemic. Meredith Campbell, a job placement expert who owns Express Employment, a longtime agency in south Asheville, said the labor force applicant pool is smaller because people have self-selected out and chosen not to get jobs.

“We still have good candidates and good jobs out there to fill,” said Campbell, adding that entry level salaries have gone up but mid-level salaries are stagnating.

She said this is most likely the reason some people are feeling underappreciated by their company and seeking other employment.

Mancuso said machinists can make starting salaries of between 40 and $50,000, with trained machinists making upwards of $80,000 in the market which continues to need skilled workers.

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