HAMLET — The Richmond Community College Small Business Center received a state award for the unique program it offered on How to Start a Drone Business in combination with the College’s STEM camps. Small Business Center Director Butch Farrah shared this news with the College’s Board of Trustees at its meeting on Tuesday.
The Small Business Center received the Innovation Award for Programs and Seminars from the North Carolina Community College System’s Small Business Center Network.
“We have developed a good collaboration here at RichmondCC between the Small Business Center, the Workforce and Economic Development Division and curriculum to promote all areas of the College, and this drone program touched all these areas,” Farrah said.
Working with STEM instructors, Farrah explored the possibility of offering drone instruction to STEM students. Successful completers would have the opportunity to become entrepreneurs in the drone industry. To help fund the program, the RichmondCC Foundation approved a grant to launch it.
“We worked it out so these kids would get instruction on drone operation, and they were able to take the licensing test and become licensed commercial drone pilots. They are now subcontracting
with the instructor of the class to do work out in the community. So these 16-year-olds are, in essence, running their own business,” Farrah said.
Farrah noted that the age requirement for the licensing test is 16, so three students in the class were eligible to take the test and all three passed. The younger students will be able to take the Federal Aviation Administration’s licensing test when they come of age.
The drone program is also collaborating with students in the College’s Business Administration curriculum program, who are required to complete a capstone project for their degree. In this case, the project is mentoring the students in the drone program on how to start their business.
“We all worked together to receive this special award at the state level, and we’re all very proud of this collaborative effort,” Farrah said.
Electric Lineman Course Begins
The Board of Trustees was also given a report on another successful collaborative effort: the Electric Lineman program. Dr. Robbie Taylor, vice president for Workforce and Economic Development, said 19 students were enrolled in the lineman program that started on Nov. 26.
The College has used a special appropriation for $300,000 from the General Assembly to invest in the start-up of the Electric Lineman program.
“The idea came together quickly for this program, and there were many involved who helped get it up and running so we could begin training people for long-term, sustainable careers in the electric utility industry,” Taylor said.
The lineman program is a nine-week program that starts with three weeks of classroom instruction. The program will run three times a year with the next one scheduled to begin the second week of March. The College is also offering scholarship money to help offset the cost of the program.
The Board of Trustees was also given a presentation of the College’s audited financial statements for fiscal year ending June 30, 2018. Lee Grissom, CPA, CFE, with S. Preston Douglas & Associates, LLP presented the report along with graphs and a brief explanation. The audit contained no findings or exceptions, and Grissom said the College was in very good financial shape.
Grissom also said he was impressed by the level of internal controls that he had witnessed involving financial transactions.
“While monitoring internal controls, we witnessed four or five approvals and signatures prior to an order being placed or a check being cut,” he said.
He also stated that the College’s staff did an extraordinary job providing requested information and had demonstrated exceptional knowledge regarding the financial data.