Statewide expo features Wilson Academy of Applied Technology

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The Wilson Academy of Applied Technology will be featured in a statewide economic development conference held in Pinehurst this week.

Krystal Cox, principal at WAAT and current Wilson County Schools Principal of the Year, is planning for a presentation at Energizing Rural North Carolina on Thursday.

The conference is convening economic developers and community leaders from North Carolina “to raise awareness and inspire actionable strategies for rural economic development.” The focus is on infrastructure, workforce, education, health and leadership.

Joining Cox at the conference will be Jennifer Lantz, executive director of the Wilson Economic Development Council, and Ryan Gladieux, president of Wilson-based Weener Plastics.

“The three of us will be speaking about WAAT and how the community has come together to create this school,” Cox said. “Jennifer is going to share some of the backstories about us beginning the school here in Wilson and some of the statistics about our job market, advanced manufacturing being our largest industry, having around 85 different companies here, but then there being this lack of skilled workers in the employment pool to select from.”

Lantz will speak about how industry came to the table to create a school that is a “grow-your-own” model where local businesses are investing in a school in hopes that students will then, in turn, want to work at their companies, Cox said.

“I am going to talk about the school itself,” Cox said. “About how it is an early college high school where we recruit 50 students a year, talking about our four programs of study and giving them the ins and outs of the daily life at WAAT.”

That will include a discussion of the technology students learn and “how we try to infuse ideas from industry within our school and talking to our students about good manufacturing practices and OSHA and safety and those types of things,” Cox said.

“Ryan is going to talk from the business perspective about why (companies) partner with WAAT,” Cox said. “What are those benefits and why should they invest in our school?”

Cox said Gladiuex and other industry leaders have allowed students and teachers to tour their companies and send representatives to the WAAT campus to talk about manufacturing.

Cox said the Wilson speakers will be following a presentation by Nathan Ramsey, director of the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board.

The Wilson entourage will be presenting as a case study and will be sharing the practical sense of what Ramsey will discuss from a research perspective.

“We made it happen here in Wilson,” Cox said.

The state meeting is scheduled Thursday and Friday at The Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst.

The Economic Development Partnerships of North Carolina, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the N.C. Rural Center, Golden Leaf Foundation, N.C. State Institute or Emerging Issues and the North Carolina Economic Development Association are joining forces to hold the