North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory announces new veteran initiatives in Fayetteville

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Governor Pat McCrory helped dedicate a new community college program in Fayetteville Wednesday, focusing on veterans' issues. (WTVD)

Governor Pat McCrory helped dedicate a new community college program in Fayetteville Wednesday, focusing on veterans' issues he will announce in his State of the State address.

McCrory cut the ribbon on Fayetteville Technical Community College's Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology Center. The 20,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art building is located in the city's Military Business Park outside Fort Bragg. It is home to FTCC's new two-year program designed to address the country's shortage of technicians who are able to rehab newer model cars.

"What the manufacturers are putting out, there's not enough technicians who know how to work on new cars," said James Jones, one of two instructors on staff for the new automotive program.

When the first graduates complete their associate of applied science degree this year, the college said they will have nine professional certifications from I-CAR (Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair), four certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, five manufacturer certifications and an insurance adjuster license.

Companies collaborating with the program include PPG Industries, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, GEICO Insurance, Van Tuyl Automotive Group, Allstate Insurance, and Gerber Collision and Glass.

"When they graduate, they're going to hit that shop ready to work," said Jones.

McCrory pointed out the program's benefits to Iraq and Afghanistan War-era veterans, who are looking for ways to transition successfully from military to civilian life.

Sixty percent of FTCC's student body is comprised of veterans.

Tia Early, 27, is a National Guard member, who is also the first female going through the vehicle repair program. She's already thinking about life after the military, including owning a body shop.

"I think the challenge is 'Are people going to give you a chance,'" Early said. "Because a lot of people see you as a veteran, but they don't recognize what jobs you've done being in the military."

"Veterans from Fort Bragg and other bases are a great recruitment tool for me when I go to Europe or Japan and tell them 'come to North Carolina, we've got people immediately who can fill that jobs skills gap, and have the leadership and maturity to take responsibility for it,'" McCrory said during a tour of the facility.

The governor addressed taking heat for his pro-vocational training educational stance. Over the past two years, he's often reiterated there's less of a need for "people who give speeches," lawyers, insurance agents, government officials and retailers. He insists the key to economic growth is with people who know how to build and make things.

"If we don't have the skills, we're not going to keep industry, and we're surely not going to grow industries and jobs," said McCrory.

NEW MILITARY INITIATIVES

In Wednesday night's State of the State address, McCrory will announce the development of the state's first Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, a cabinet agency set-up that will report directly to him. In light of pending defense cuts, the department will help coordinate efforts to protect investment in military installations like Fort Bragg, and protect the interest of those installations' surrounding communities, he said.

McCrory also announced two additional Veteran Treatment Courts planned for North Carolina. The first two have opened in Harnett and Cumberland counties and provide veterans a tailored mental health and substance abuse recovery program in lieu of serving time for non-violent offenses. Locations for those new treatment courts were not announced.

Veterans will also begin having a special designation on their North Carolina driver's licenses to signify their military service. McCrory said it will provide a quick, official way for veterans to identify themselves and tap into special services and offers.

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