Town Talk 02/04/20: Jobs, Removing Barriers Focus of Desmarais’ First Year

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Dr. Rachel Desmarais, president of Vance-Granville Community College, appeared on WIZS Town Talk Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Desmarais, who celebrated her one-year anniversary with the college in January, said she is pleased with the recent strides the college has made in workforce development, marketing and removing “barriers” to education.

Making it her mission from day one to “find the programs that could get people into jobs more quickly,” Desmarais and VGCC staff have worked with EMSI, Inc., a national firm that reviews job data, to provide information on the most needed types of employment in the local area.

“The number one and number two jobs of availability in this area were truck drivers and heavy equipment operators,” Desmarais explained of EMSI’s findings.

In response to the community’s need for truck drivers, VGCC, in partnership with Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, now offers a truck driving program that gives students the training required to operate tractor-trailer rigs, obtain a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) and become professional truck drivers.

Orientation for the first nine-week program was completed last week with classes to begin Wednesday, February 12, 2020. Students will participate in a combination of classroom instruction, range driving and road driving.

According to Desmarais, 17 students are currently participating in the program and a waitlist has been started for others who are interested. “Local companies that need truck drivers are very excited about the opportunity to have local folks who can take those jobs.”

For more information on the truck driving program, please click here.

By changing the way the college approaches marketing, including getting back to basics with “going out, talking and listening to the people in the community,” Desmarais said the college is learning what local organizations and residents need while strengthening existing partnerships and creating new alliances.

“We are going back to some of the things we use to do such as offering classes out in the community,” said Desmarais. “We have started a new partnership and are offering classes at the Mary Potter School in Oxford, for example.”

Desmarais said VGCC staff are also focused on removing what is frequently considered “barriers” to education, with the recent announcement of the college’s partnership with public and rural transportation service KARTS being a prime example of this commitment.

“This program removes one of the larger barriers of education – students getting to and from college,” Desmarais said.

Thanks to a combination of grant funds and VGCC Endowment Fund donations, the KARTS service is provided free-of-charge to students attending all four VGCC campus locations – Henderson (Main), Louisburg (Franklin), Creedmoor (South) and Warrenton (Warren).

Students can make appointments for KARTS by calling (252) 438-2573 and then dialing “0.” Appointments can be made up to two weeks in advance. For more information on the KARTS program, please click here.

VGCC is currently piloting and tracking the success of another program aimed at reducing perhaps the largest barrier in education – the financial barrier.

“We know that students who get Pell Grants have a lot going on in their lives,” Desmarais stated. “They have a lot of challenges in terms of working and going to school, transportation, living arrangements, and sometimes they aren’t as successful at the school part as they’d like because life gets in the way.”

Explaining that students have to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) to keep their financial aid, Desmarais said the college is offering a “Second Chance Scholarship” to those that may have fallen below the required GPA.

“We [VGCC] help connect them with other agencies to help them solve non-school problems that are getting in the way of them being successful here. Once we do that, we provide what we call a second chance scholarship for them to improve their GPA so that they can get back on financial aid.”

With all of this, Desmarais said the college is writing its narrative as a student-ready college. “We are going to be here for the students that we have. We are not a selective institution, but we are a quality-proud institution.”

To learn more about VGCC, please visit the college’s official website at or visit its YouTube channel by clicking here.

To hear the interview with Desmarais in its entirety, go to and click on Town Talk.

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