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Central Carolina Community College hires Biofuels curriculum developer

Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2006

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Pittsboro, NC - Andrew McMahan is riding the surge of interest in the growing biofuels energy industry and having a hand in shaping the workforce that will serve it.

McMahan has been hired by Central Carolina Community College to develop a curriculum program that will train workers for this rapidly expanding energy-production field. His work is being funded by a $58,190 grant from the North Carolina Community College System’s BioNetwork Center.

CCCC’s planned associate’s degree biofuels curriculum program will be the first of its kind in the state, according to college President Matt Garrett. In announcing the grant, H. Martin Lancaster, president of the NCCCS, said, “(CCCC) will have a significant impact on workforce and economic development for our state. With the challenge of the drastic decline in traditional industries in North Carolina, this (biofuels curriculum) project holds great promise and opportunity.”

Biofuels are poised to become a major energy source in the near future, according to energy analysts. For example, according to a study published by the National Biodiesel Board, by 2015, that industry will create 39,000 new jobs and add $24 billion to the U.S. economy.

“The economic and environmental factors are the big benefits of biofuels,” McMahan said. “They are renewable resources * that’s a big factor. With biofuels, you grow it here, make it here and use it here. It lessens dependence on foreign oil. Unlike oil, it’s decentralized and money stays in the communities, counties and states. Biofuels are produced on a local level, creating jobs in manufacturing and agriculture.”

McMahan said the plan is for CCCC to create a template for a biofuels curriculum program that the BioNetwork Center can then spread to colleges across the state. The program, which will be offered at the college’s Chatham Campus in Pittsboro, will train students to work in the three main areas of biofuels: biodiesel, made primarily from vegetable oils; ethanol, made primarily from corn; and biomass, made from grasses, landfill, hog waste, etc. The courses will include general knowledge of biofuels, lab skills, quality control testing, research on feed stocks that can be grown in North Carolina for potential fuel use, and work experience with local farmers and biofuels companies.

CCCC has been offering a biofuels class, an automotive technology class geared towards the use of biofuels and a renewable energies class through its Continuing Education Department at its Chatham Campus for several years. Now, McMahan, with input from industry, agriculture and other knowledgeable sources, will develop a full associate’s degree curriculum.

“We’re very excited,” said Leif Forer, chief engineer for Piedmont Biofuels Co. in Pittsboro. He serves on the college’s Biofuels Curriculum Advisory Committee and teaches a biodiesel class at the Pittsboro Campus. “There’s a lot of interest and demand for a biofuels program at CCCC. Andy is in position to fill an important need.

The program will produce students who are ready for immediate employment in the biofuels industry as well as providing a strong foundation for those who want to go on to get a four-year degree in the field. Several universities already offer bachelor’s degrees in engineering with a concentration on biofuels. McMahan, 27, earned a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a concentration on environmental policy and land-use planning, from Appalachian State University in 2001. He took CCCC’s biofuels course back in 2004. The instructors were Forer and Rachel Burton, who started the program and is a principal in Piedmont Biofuels. In 2005, McMahan earned a certificate from Guilford Technical Community College in heavy equipment and transportation technology.

During the 2005-06 school year, he started a biofuels class at GTCC with the help of Burton and Forer. Now, he is excited about developing the biofuels curriculum program for CCCC.

The program is expected to be ready to enroll students in fall 2008. In the meantime, McMahan said anyone interested could start with the Continuing Education class that covers much of the information that will be presented in the introductory Biofuels I class. “I feel great about it,” McMahan said of developing the biofuels curriculum program. “It’s very exciting. When it’s up and running, I hope to feel that we’ve done a service for North Carolina, for the agriculture community, for the service community and the community at large.”


CCCC’s Continuing Education Department on the Chatham Campus will offer three biodiesel courses during the spring semester: “Introduction to Biofuels,” “Diesel Technology,” and “Straight Vegetable Oil.” Students may enroll in person at each campus, by phone or by mail. For more information, go online to, or call Continuing Education at (919) 718-7225 in Lee County; (910) 814-8823 in Harnett County, or (919) 542-6495, ext. 223 or (919) 542-2201 in Chatham County. The cost for classes ranges from $56 to $61.

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