CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A special program at Central Piedmont Community College will attract more overseas companies to Charlotte.
It will also put CPCC students a step above students at other community colleges across the country in very specific, high-tech manufacturing skills.
The program, which provides something called IHK-certification, gives students the exact same high-level technology training that people receive in Germany.
Lothar Burger, the managing director for Groninger USA's U.S. Operations, said it's a step in the right direction.
The company, which is based in Germany but recently opened its U.S. headquarters in Charlotte, makes machines that fill containers like vials, jars and syringes for pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies.
They are expanding and depend on workers with high-level manufacturing skills who have IHK certification or the equivalent.
"There's a lot of good jobs out there, but you need to have a very good qualification," Burger said.
Right now, they bring in workers from Germany or give American workers additional training.
With students soon able to get certified in Charlotte, he said it's convenient and much easier for the company here, but would also mean job opportunities for those students overseas.
"I think these people would not have a problem being hired by German companies," he said.
Charlotte has focused on attracting German companies. There are 192 in the Charlotte region, many in manufacturing.
The next closest foreign country is the United Kingdom with 130 companies.
By signing an agreement with a German industry chamber Tuesday, CPCC became the first U.S. community college to offer this program.
Certification would be available in mechatronics (high-level electronic, mechanical, and computer skills); CNC technology (computer programming technology); PLC technology (maintenance and programming); compressed air systems; and energy management. CPCC offers training in these areas currently but will now tweak them to qualify for IHK certification.
"We're training people for really good jobs and with the latest technology," president of CPCC Dr. Tony Zeiss said. "We think those programs will mushroom in size."
The head of the German chamber, Professor Hans-Peter Mengele, said it's key.
"For many German companies, this will be really something very special," he said.
According to CPCC officials, the school has about 200 students right now in its high-tech manufacturing program. They estimate they could easily expand the program to several hundred. Starting in August, students will be able to earn IHK-endorsed certificates and in most cases, students will be able to complete the certification in one semester.