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RCC ASSISTING LOCAL BUSINESSES TO REACH ZERO ILLITERACY RATE

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``My dream is to work myself out of a job.

Those are the sentiments of Lisa Hendren, literacy coordinator at Rockingham Community College.No, Hendren is not lazy.

She is working toward her ultimate goal of a zero percent illiteracy rate in Rockingham County. Right now, more than 50 percent of all adults in Rockingham County are functionally illiterate. The county ranks 73rd among the state's 100 counties in terms of literacy.

Functional illiteracy is defined as the inability to read, write and do math on a eighth-grade level.

The problem is a national crisis which will affect the entire country in the near future, officials say. According to the National Family Literacy Foundation, by the year 2000, people with less than a high school education will be able to fill only 14 percent of all jobs.

The American Society for Training and Development estimates that in 10 years the number of companies that teach remedial basic education will double.

Macfield is one local business that has already joined the fight against illiteracy. The idea to provide an educational boost arose because of changes in technology. Company administrators wanted to ensure their employees would be able to keep up.

This month, RCC faculty will begin teaching on-site classes in Adult Basic Education, Adult High School and General Education Development to more than 400 Macfield employees in all six plants in Madison, Mayodan, Stoneville and Reidsville.

Macfield is supporting their employees' determination to improve their education skills not only by providing the space and books for the classes, but also by offering financial incentives to employees who complete the courses.

``Our short-term goal is for every one in our company to have at least a high school education,' said Dan Moore, Macfield's training manager. ``However, our bottom line is to raise the education level of everyone. Creating an environment promoting lifelong learning is our ultimate goal.'

Other local companies that are coordinating efforts with RCC to promote the value of education by holding classes on-site are American Tobacco and Burlington Industries in Reidsville and Vintage Yarns in Eden.

``We at RCC are proud to be working with local industries to improve the educational status of their employees,' said Dr. Jerry Owens, RCC's president. ``Education is an investment in the future that will benefit all of us.'

In addition to teaching basic skills such as reading and writing, the classes also promote the development of oral communication skills and analytical abilities such as problem solving and critical thinking skills, all of which are important in business.

``More businesses need to become involved in education,' said Hendren. ``In seven years more that half of Rockingham County will be retired. Where will we get the educated work force needed for our local economy unless we start educating our workers now?'

RCC holds ABE, AHS and GED classes on campus and in a variety of places throughout the county.

For more information on literacy and the classes available through RCC, call Hendren at 342-4261.

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