North Carolina Community Colleges Lead the Way with Cutting-Edge Programs: From Electric Vehicles to AI and Drone Operations

The North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges approved several new programs and certifications at the April 19 board meeting, demonstrating the importance of preparing students for emerging industries.  
Among the new programs are Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Technician Certification, Lithium-Ion Battery Manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Operator Flight Training and UAS Operations Management. 
“By prioritizing active listening to employers, maintaining agility, and responding swiftly to market demands, we’re ensuring that educational offerings remain relevant and impactful,” said State Board Chair Tom Looney. “Investing in high-cost, high-growth programs is a strategic move that addresses the current needs of our employers and positions students for lucrative, cutting-edge career opportunities.”

Dr. Brian Merritt, Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at the North Carolina Community College System, said programs like these help prepare a workforce that is ready to meet the evolving industry demands across the state. 

“When our faculty and staff intentionally engage with employers to create new programs and courses aligned with current and future market demands, our graduates can be work-ready and we can help keep North Carolina as the nation’s top state to do business,” Merritt said.   
Details of each program are illustrated below:

  • Electrical Vehicle Supply Equipment Technician Certification – Wake Technical Community College will offer students an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of electric vehicle charging at different levels of charging infrastructure, manufacturers and products, regulations governing chargers, and charging installations. The Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Technician Certification will be granted to technicians that successfully complete the program and pass a rigorous exam. 
  • computer generated person head and numbersArtificial Intelligence (AI) – Central Piedmont Community College will offer an associate-degree program in artificial technology starting in Fall 2024. Central Piedmont is only the second North Carolina community college to offer an AI degree program. Wayne Community College first offered it in 2021. The AI program will equip students with the foundational knowledge and practical skills necessary to excel in the rapidly growing field of AI. The curriculum will cover machine learning, chatbots and generative AI, chatbot programming, artificial intelligence programming, system analysis and design, and AI applications in various industries. 
  • Lithium-Ion Battery Manufacturing – Guilford Technical Community College will offer students an opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of Lithium-ion battery principles, battery manufacturing processes, and testing. After completing the program, students will be prepared for entry level work as an Electric Battery Assembly Technician. Guilford Tech is partnering with CBI and Soelect to offer this program. 
  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems – Beaufort County Community College will offer two new programs in Unmanned Aircraft Systems/Drone Operations.
    • UAS Operator Flight Training: Prepares students for UAS/Drone commercial certification.
    • UAS Operations Management: Designed as a follow-up to obtaining the FAA Part 107 Certificate and will help prepare students to conduct safe and legal UAS operations in a wide range of commercial settings. 

“With North Carolina being in the forefront for the nation on new business, it’s clear the next wave of industry for the state will be focused on clean energy and electrification,” said Guilford Tech President, Anthony Clarke, Ph.D. “We are excited to be on the front end of this growth by preparing to meet the workforce training needs with partners like CBI and Soelect.” 
The approval of these programs underscores the State Board’s dedication to fostering a skilled workforce capable of driving economic growth. Through collaboration with industry partners, the Colleges remain committed to empowering students with the tools they need to succeed in an ever-changing world.  
These courses are now available for all 58 institutions to offer across the state. Learn more about programs offered at North Carolina community colleges using the Program Finder tool. 

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