SALISBURY, N.C. – North Carolina Community College System President Thomas A. Stith III made his first in-person visit to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College this week, where he toured the College’s North Carolina Research Campus facilities in Kannapolis, attended a joint meeting of the Rowan-Cabarrus Foundation and Board of Trustees, and even got a chance to experience the driving simulator used to train students in the fire and emergency services programs.

“We were delighted to host President Stith and show him firsthand how Rowan-Cabarrus is changing lives through education every day,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus. “As one of North Carolina’s ‘Great 58’ community colleges, we are working alongside him to lead economic recovery efforts, prepare students for employment in growing industries, and increase the state’s visibility as a global competitor in business.”

At the Rowan-Cabarrus Advanced Technology Center, Stith learned about cutting-edge programs that prepare students for in-demand, high-tech jobs in engineering, mechatronics, robotics, advanced manufacturing, and more. The center also includes flex lab and classroom space that is used by major corporate partners who have chosen Rowan-Cabarrus as national and international employee training hubs.

He also visited the biotechnology and nursing programs, getting a glimpse of the state-of-the-art facilities and quality instruction that make these programs popular choices for students.

Stith, who assumed the role of North Carolina Community College System president in January, has two decades of experience in business and public service in North Carolina. He served as district director of the U.S. Small Business Association, where he led the federal agency’s response to COVID-19 in North Carolina. His higher education experience includes five years as economic development director at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the Kenan-Flagler Business School. He has served on the boards of the Golden LEAF Foundation, the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership, and the United Way of the Greater Triangle.

Stith is passionate about the role of community colleges in driving sustainable economic growth in North Carolina by providing opportunities for students of all ages to build stable careers in high-demand industries.

Students who attended North Carolina community colleges between 2009 and 2019 accounted for 33 percent of the state’s wage earners, totaling 1.7 million people and $60 billion in wages earned in fiscal year 2020. Three years after graduation, 77 percent of community college students remain and are employed in North Carolina, compared to 67 percent for four-year public institutions.

“The community colleges are the job engine for North Carolina,” Stith said. “The ‘Great 58’ serve 700,000 students per year, and I appreciate the support and commitment of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College as we move forward and continue to provide a pathway to opportunity for North Carolinians.”