A big pair of boots

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Paul D. Camp Community College lost a faculty member last week who has done much to advance the institution from a simple, local community college to a regional powerhouse in the field of  workforce education and development.

Randy Betz, who has spent the past 10 years in the college’s division of workforce development, including the past eight years or so as the vice president of that division, has resigned his position at PDCCC for a position as a project coordinator at Tidewater Community College in Norfolk.

Setting aside the illuminating lesson to be gleaned from PDCCC losing a valuable asset like Betz to the competitor that arguably siphons the most faculty talent and students from its rolls, it’s still easy to see what a resource the Camp college has lost.

For nearly a decade, Betz has been the face of the college’s workforce program. And during that time, the importance of workforce development efforts on community college campuses has vastly grown.

As the cost of four-year college degrees continues to drift further out of reach of many middle- and low-income families, community college has become more attractive. At the same time, the shuttering of Franklin’s paper mill in 2009 and 2010 left thousands of blue-collar workers in Western Tidewater both out of work and untrained for many of the jobs they might have taken.

Paul D. Camp’s Workforce Development Center placed itself at the nexus of these two forces, carving out a niche from which it could help prepare generations new and old for jobs in some of the skilled trades that are the backbone of every economy.

As the economy of Western Tidewater has begun to lean heavily on warehousing and distribution, for instance, Paul D. Camp’s workforce center has expanded programs designed to train workers for the logistics industry. Now, at any given time, there is a high likelihood that the center is offering some kind of forklift or other warehouse-related training.

Betz, who was here in Franklin when the devastating news about the mill was announced, has had much to with the growth of the center’s logistics programs, along with a fast-track welding program that helps prepare folks for lucrative shipyard work and a variety of other programs that have led to better jobs for many people in Western Tidewater.

Dr. Renee Felts has accepted the role of vice president for workforce development in addition to her current position as vice president for institutional advancement. She will provide high-level oversight of both departments, college officials stated in a press release, adding that a director will also be hired to execute day-to-day operations at the center.

We are hopeful that the shift represents a net gain in attention to workforce development. Betz has left a big pair of work boots to fill.