Blue Ridge Community College students operate the computer numerical control plasma table with instructor Ben Land in the Spearman Building.

Grant Provides State-of-the-Art Technology for Blue Ridge Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Programs

Featured Photo: Blue Ridge Community College students operate the computer numerical control plasma table with instructor Ben Land in the Spearman Building. (Photo by Benjamin Rickert. High resolution photos are available for media use.)

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Recent grant funding for Blue Ridge Community College provided by the North Carolina Community College System has enabled the institution to purchase equipment that expands its hands-on, advanced training for students pursuing careers in advanced manufacturing. This grant is part of a state-wide initiative that increases opportunities for students to gain advanced skills and pursue high-demand careers.

The funding enabled Blue Ridge Community College to purchase a computer numerical control (CNC) plasma table, allowing students in various career paths to learn cutting-edge manufacturing techniques. Workers with metal fabrication skills are desperately needed by local manufacturers. This includes employees entering the workforce, as well as those already working in the field who need customized, advanced training.

“Advanced manufacturing is integral to the local economy in Henderson and Transylvania counties,” said Blue Ridge Vice President for Economic and Workforce Development Scott Queen. “This investment will ensure that manufacturers continue to have well-trained individuals to grow their companies in an increasingly competitive global market.”

Blue Ridge has a number of advanced manufacturing programs that are growing to accommodate the increasing need for skilled workers in more than 130 manufacturing environments in Henderson and Transylvania counties. Blue Ridge offers training opportunities in welding, engineering, mechatronics, and computer-integrated machining. These programs are designed for students to complete short-term certificate programs in less than a year that can combine to meet the requirements of an associate degree program.

“Advanced manufacturing plays an important part in solving problems and keeping things moving,” said Sharon Suess, chair of Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing at Blue Ridge. “A solutions-focused field driven by technology, advanced manufacturing offers our students a future of endless opportunity and upward mobility.”

Blue Ridge Community College’s advanced manufacturing faculty bring a wealth of industry expertise to their teaching. All instructors come from the industry, and hold years of experience in their fields. Faculty are highly credentialed with advanced degrees and industry training.

To give students an affordable path to their career goals, Free College scholarships are available to new and returning students through 2023. Through the extended Brighter Futures ‘Free College’ scholarship program, Blue Ridge will waive all tuition, fees and books costs to college-eligible students. More information about Free College is available at

Interested students may find information about the College’s advanced manufacturing programs at The College’s fall semester class schedule is listed online at

Registration for the fall semester, which begins August 17, 2023, is underway. Those ready to begin or continue their college journey can find out how to get started by contacting the College’s One Stop center at or 828.694.1800.