Jonathan Brown has a passion for workforce development.
That passion has led him to Davidson-Davie Community College where he serves as the new associate vice president of workforce and community engagement.
His goal? To see Davidson-Davie Community College become the economic driver for both communities.
“My vision is that all of our local business and industry will go through us whether through our curriculum programs preparing future workers or through continuing education as business and industry help their employees expand their skills.”
Three weeks into the job, Brown is excited about meeting people and forging a deeper relationship between the college, area businesses and industry, and the community.
“I love what I’m doing, this is my passion. Introducing myself to people over the next couple of months is going to be a learning process as well as an exciting time for the college to interact with business and industry,” he said with a grin.
“Davidson-Davie Community College is a great partner for Davie County, especially for our business community. Their focus on workforce development and training for our employers is a critical service they provide,” said Carolyn McManamy, director of Davie CONNECT. “I am very excited to have Jonathan Brown onboard to lead the workforce and community engagement team and look forward to working with him. Under his leadership I believe our businesses will have more services available to them and they will develop stronger partnerships with the college.”
While Brown credits his 24 years in K-12 education, 14 years as a career and technical education teacher teaching business education classes such as financial management, accounting, and computers, followed by 10 years as principal of the Yadkin Valley Career Academy and North Davidson High School, with preparing him for the position. It was his three years at Yadkin Valley Career Academy, a cooperative innovative high school that partners with Davidson – Davie Community College, that truly ignited his passion for community college education.
“Our task was to develop our students and get them ready for the workforce, which looks totally different than the traditional college preparatory model that I was coming from. While at Yadkin Valley, I made a lot of business contacts and worked with a lot of our industries. I assisted our students with internships, apprenticeships, and job-shadowing opportunities which helped them to discover their future careers at a younger age. Most importantly, I educated our community on how viable a two-year education can be.”
“There is nothing wrong with a four-year education, but it’s not for everybody. I feel like as a community, we have driven it into our students’ heads that they must go to a four-year school, when in fact they can go to a two-year program, be employable, and end up a lot better off financially.”
He explained that many students are now taking up to six years to complete a four-year degree, and many are graduating with thousands of dollars of student debt.
“We are really trying to educate our students, and more importantly our parents, that there are opportunities locally where you can achieve economic prosperity without having a four-year degree.”
“My passion is workforce development because the one thing I have grown to know and understand completely in my time as an educator is that regardless of a student’s background, regardless of their academic level, the goal at the end is for them to be workforce ready, and sometimes I feel like we miss that a little bit. I think we do a great job of preparing students for higher education, but we are missing the mark in preparing them for careers and the workforce.”
“Making sure our students understand all of the opportunities available in Davidson and Davie counties for respectable, stable employment is important to me.”
Professing that he likes to stay busy, Brown described other responsibilities of his position that he is equally eager to begin.
- Establish a solid network of contacts within the communities and become a contact point between the college and business and industry. “Sometimes business and industry don’t align with educational needs but collectively as a group, we can create better opportunities to work together.”
- Grow the college’s continuing education program. “We have so many opportunities to offer our communities and our businesses through continuing education because it allows us a little bit more flexibility than our curriculum programs.”
- Grow the Davidson and Davie Apprenticeship Consortium (DDAC). “I feel very passionate about these apprenticeship opportunities for our students. I’ve been in several meetings already with the consortium, and my biggest focus right now is assessing where we are at and determining how well we are preparing those apprentices to walk into those facilities as good employees.”
Brown is also looking ahead to what education and business will look like after the pandemic and COVID-19. “When things return to normal, I believe we are going to have some challenges in how we do business and how we do education. I see a lot of opportunities to incorporate virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence into not only education, but industry, and I’d like to see the college become a frontrunner in those areas. We are already seeing those applications in the health fields and I see them expanding into manufacturing.”
“I’m thrilled to see all of the opportunities available for our two counties. From an economic development standpoint, we are right in the middle of that state, about an hour from everything. We are surrounded by international airports, we have a rail system, we’re only three hours from a major port, and more importantly, we have land. I also think we have leadership in place that believes in economic development. To me, it’s a pivotal time because I think all of the pieces are in place to see our communities grow.”
For now, Brown has an office at the Lexington Campus but is eager to establish an office or regular hours in Davie County as well. “I am tasked to serve two communities, and I don’t want to have one feel like I’m not there for them, so it is important to me that I am in Davie County to see people and work with them. I tell everyone I meet that regardless of where I am physically, I will answer my phone and I will return calls and emails.”