For division chair, community college degree made all the difference.



Story and photo by Carla Kucinski

Of all the degrees that Randy Gunter has earned, his associate degree from community college means the most.

“It opened up doors for me to work in an area I truly wanted to work in,” Gunter said. “I wasn’t just showing up at a place of employment just to do something day-in and day-out. I was showing up to do something that I wanted to do.”

An Asheboro, N.C. native, Gunter graduated from Randolph Community College with an associate in applied science degree in electronics engineering technology. A four-year school wasn’t an option at the time, but at community college Gunter received one-on-one instruction and hands-on learning that led to a career. He quips that if it weren’t for community college he’d probably be on the side of the road. But all joking aside, community college gave Gunter a degree, a career and a substantial wage in a field that combined his talent and his passion. It also gave him the foundation to complete his bachelor’s degree at N.C. A&T State University and master’s degree at East Carolina University.

Growing up, Gunter tinkered with broken small engines, appliances and toys and would pull things apart to see how they worked. Some he even fixed. That passion and curiosity was reaffirmed when he took his first electronics class in the 11th grade and fell in love with it.

Today, Gunter is the division chair for Industrial, Construction and Engineering Technologies (ICET) at Guilford Technical Community College. He started in January. Previously, he worked as a field service technician for Flamex, Inc. in Greensboro before returning to his roots in the North Carolina Community College System. He served as the program head for Electrical/Electronics Technology at Randolph Community College, then taught electronics at Montgomery Community College in Troy before being promoted to dean of curriculum and, eventually, vice president of instruction.

“Working in the field only fueled the fire for my chosen pathway, and teaching has given me an opportunity to give back to the students and the community college system,” he said. “I have always enjoyed working with the various programs in the ICET division and the opportunities to engage local industry partners.”

One of Gunter’s goals for the ICET division this year is to focus on recruitment and retention through building new connections with industry and high schools and establishing transfer agreements with colleges and universities. One initiative he’s excited to be a part of is the Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP), which involves six local industries throughout the county and will provide a pathway for high school students to earn a degree, gain invaluable work experience and receive an apprenticeship credential established through N.C. Commerce.

“I wish that more people knew the opportunities that exist in the industrial, construction and engineering trades,” Gunter said. “We have students who earn a very good living with a two-year technical degree.”

Students in the ICET division start out with an hourly wage of $15-$18 an hour to as much as $19-$23 an hour, depending on the degree, Gunter said. Most land jobs after completing their associate degree and earn as much as, and sometimes more than, four-year degree graduates. Others go on to complete their bachelor’s or master’s degrees in their chosen field.

“I have had students that interned with a major energy company, and then began their career at approximately $65,000 per year,” Gunter said. “The students need to understand that their hard work and dedication will pay dividends. The jobs that we prepare students for are labor intensive, but they are some of the most rewarding careers out there. The possibilities are truly endless.”


March 16, 2016