Skip to main content

KANNAPOLIS — Rowan-Cabarrus Community College has forged a partnership with Wayne Brothers construction company to assist in training and educating local residents.
Through the N.C. Back-To-Work initiative, students will be able to acquire the necessary skills required to obtain employment in the heavy commercial construction industry.
Wayne Brothers, a Kannapolis-based concrete construction and site development contractor, has not only returned to pre-recession staffing, but grown beyond it.
“I started to notice as soon as the economy showed signs of recovery there was a decline in the candidate pool,” said Milton Chicas, training & recruiting director for Wayne Brothers. “We were looking for individuals with character, skills and willingness to learn. That proved to be a big challenge for us.”
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College was recently awarded a $301,539 grant from the North Carolina Department of Commerce in support of the NC Back-to-Work initiative.
The program’s focus is providing job training and retraining to long-term unemployed citizens of North Carolina. The college is leveraging NC Back-to-Work funds to support training for the commercial construction industry and prepare individuals for entry-level employment with Wayne Brothers.
The training program that Rowan-Cabarrus and Wayne Brothers have developed is an intensive three-week opportunity, which combines classroom training with field experience.
“This is a great way for someone to try out a career within the commercial construction industry,” said . “This is a unique opportunity where job seekers can try out a new career path for three weeks while receiving valuable training and certifications.” Individuals who have received unemployment benefits for more than 26 weeks, as certified by the Department of Commerce, or individuals who have exhausted their unemployment benefits will qualify for the program which may cover student support and coaching as well as targeted financial assistance, including tuition, registration fees, books and certification costs.
“Our goal is to help these individuals obtain marketable credentials which we hope will lead to sustainable employment and new careers,” said Jeanie Moore, vice president of advancement and continuing education for Rowan-Cabarrus.
“We hope to hire many of the students who go through this program,” said Chicas. “Right now we are struggling to find enough qualified employees to meet the demands and growth of our industry.
The program will allow Wayne Brothers to participate directly with the development of qualified candidates for the future work force need in our specialized industry.”
Drew Sharpe, 21, has been with Wayne Brothers for almost a year. After working in retail for a few years, he realized that he could do more with his career.
“I knew very little about commercial construction, but the training they provided set me up for success,” said Sharpe. “I would encourage anyone to take a chance and see where a job in commercial construction can take you.”
“It’s a fun atmosphere to work in. I really enjoy my job,” said Sharpe, who currently works for Wayne Brothers on a project at NGK Ceramics in Mooresville. “I knew I didn’t want to simply see the same four walls every day. And I love that I get to work toward something each day. It’s very satisfying.”
Lawrence Foster, 22, is planning to get a master’s degree in construction management with the help of the Wayne Brothers’ tuition reimbursement program.
“They’ll reimburse tuition and books for school if you earn an A or a B in the course. You can’t beat that,” said Foster.
“I truly love what I do. Working on a crew is like a family, like a sports team. The work is hard, but it’s satisfying. You’re always learning something new,” said Foster, who currently works at the Caterpillar Project in Winston-Salem. Some of Wayne Brothers’ most recent notable projects include the construction of the new UNC Charlotte 49ers football stadium, the Caterpillar Equipment Foundation project in Winston-Salem and the Facebook Data Center in Forest City.
“At the beginning of a job you start out with dirt. At the end, you look back and it’s a building,” said Foster. “The first time, I thought – ‘Wow, I had something to do with that.’”
Wayne Brothers increased its revenue from $19 million in 2009 to $49 million in 2011, according to company officials.
“We also have a solid continuous training program set-up here at Wayne Brothers,” said Chicas. “There are plenty of growth and promotion opportunities. We’ve had several employees start out as a laborer, grow into project management, and move up to the executive level.”
Because the company works on commercial and industrial projects, not residential projects, the safety risk is greater. Not only are there more people on-site, but the equipment is much larger and includes cranes and excavators.
“You can’t deny the physical aspect of the job,” said Sharpe. “You’ve got to be ready to work outside and work hard. But, if that is something that interests you, I bet you will enjoy it.”
Any student hoping to be hired at the end of the three-week training program will need to apply online at, successfully pass a drug screening, a medical assessment and successfully complete a physical “Fit for Duty” test. The “Fit for Duty” test includes lifting up to 90 pounds and pushing and pulling materials, such as tool carts.
“There is travel associated with our jobs. That’s a positive thing to me,” said Sharpe. “I get to see more of the country and what’s happening outside of where we live. I get to meet lots of different people.”
In addition to the opportunity of applying for one of the numerous positions Wayne Brothers has available, students who graduate from this program will walk away with industry-recognized training and certifications in Work Keys, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and National Center for Construction Education and Research, as well as their own set of basic carpenter’s tools used during the field training.
Anyone who has an interest in this commercial construction training program or any other Back-to-Work classes should contact the college’s R3 Center in Kannapolis at 704-216-7201.