MONROE – After working in the corporate world and helping to develop apprenticeship programs across North America, Karla Shields wondered if she would feel more fulfilled pursuing her efforts back home in the Union County area.
A friend shared with her a job description for a new position at South Piedmont Community College. It seemed to have been written for her.
“People will look at this career change on paper and it might not make sense,” Shields said. “But you have to do what’s in your heart, and this position was in my heart.”
As the new associate vice president for economic and workforce development and Dean for the School of Applied Science and Technology, Shields has big plans to expand the apprenticeship program at the college and help SPCC become the main talent channel for business and industry partners in the area.
Shields isn’t new to the community college environment. Prior to her corporate work, she served as executive director of the Computer Technology Institute at Central Piedmont Community College where she bolstered the information technology talent pipeline in the Charlotte region by securing a $5 million REACH IT grant.
With IT and internet connectivity at the forefront of most businesses, Shields is already in talks with economic development partners to discuss how to address broadband issues in Anson and Union counties.
“Tackling this digital divide is key for sustained economic growth,” Shields said.
Shields brings a fresh perspective to her position, committed to researching workforce talent needs and building programs to educate and train enough skilled people to fill those needs.
“The key is having enough people,” she emphasized. “That means we need to look at things differently. We don’t see enough women or people of color in certain fields and we need to change that.”
Part of that change includes narrowing the economic gap. Shields plans to seek grants and strategize messaging to reach and attract diverse audiences to our programs. She’s committed to achieving that while ensuring the atmosphere at SPCC is individualized and welcoming to all.