When Cleveland Community College was awarded the largest federal grant in the history of any North Carolina community college it was big news. In fact, it was over $23 million worth of big news! Big enough news to garner national, regional, and local news coverage and also catch the attention of Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, as well as that of United States Department of Labor Secretary, Thomas Perez.

Following the announcement, both Biden and Perez made a visit to the Cleveland Community College campus and while there toured facilities that will be part of the Mission Critical Operations program which is where CCC’s $13 million cut of the grant will be spent on the purchase of equipment, development, and staffing of the MCO project. Mission Critical Operations Project Manager-Information Technology, Jonathan Davis, says the Biden and Perez visit was a welcomed way to show off all that is taking place at CCC.

“We knew the thought of developing the Mission Critical Operations program was really an ‘out-of-the-box’ idea, but we also knew that we have top-notch students, top-notch instructors, and top-notch facilities that can handle a program such as this. So we went for it and we were rewarded,” he adds. “We are proud of all that we have and enjoyed showing off a bit for Dr. Biden and Secretary Perez.”
Following the tour, Dr. Biden, a community college instructor, and Secretary Perez each spoke of the crucial need for community colleges to pair employers with skilled employees and the ability for community colleges to provide those skills to a workforce.

Both spoke to a packed house in the Keeter Auditorium which was filled with students, faculty, staff, the CCC Board of Trustees, and members of the community. Although neither took questions from the many media outlets that were present, they did participate in a panel discussion where they were joined by Clearwater Paper Manager, Vince Reese, Mission Critical Project Managers, Jonathan Davis and Mitchell Sepaugh, Executive Vice President of Instruction and Student Development, Dr. Shannon Kennedy, and CCC student Kenneth Dover.

Sepaugh says Dover served in the United States Marine Corps and fully understands the philosophy behind mission critical operations. “Kenneth is a prime example of the type of student needed in the program. He has a background in urgent operations and fully understands the idea of an entity being able to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no down time. Even more crucial, is that he understands the urgency of getting those systems back up in seconds when there is a problem. And that is what mission critical is all about,” Sepaugh adds.

Mission Critical Operations jobs include technicians, data center employees, or even hospital positions that service a 24-hour, 365-day need. Both Davis and Sepaugh agree that Cleveland County has a pool of students who can handle this type of work. “Former mill and manufacturing workers easily have the logistical skills to understand cause and effect and how to reverse it if the need arises. This coupled with the IT, mechanical, electronics engineering, HVAC, management systems software, operations, and security and you have someone who is ready for the world of mission critical operations,” Davis explains.

The demand for a workforce that is able to anticipate, prevent, mitigate, and respond to mission critical incidents is rising in a number of areas. Cybersecurity, infrastructure maintenance, and even communications and emergency operations are all key focus points of the project.
The total awarded amount of the Department of Labor Grant was $23,200,362 million with Cleveland Community College as the lead. Other college partners who received a smaller portion of the total grant include Moultrie Technical College, Nash Community College, Wake Technical Community College, and the University of North Carolina
at Charlotte.

Learn More about Mission Critical:

To learn more about the Mission Critical Operations program at Cleveland Community College visit: www.ncmco.us

Jonathan Davis
Mission Critical Operations Project Manager- Information Technology
[email protected]

Mitchell Sepaugh
Mission Critical Operations Project Manager – Industrial Systems
[email protected]