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3C Stores Fixtures often has summer interns, but a new N.C. State University program allowed the Wilson company to hire a senior in engineering who has spent the past few months designing and developing plans for projects that will end up in stores around the world.
“What I love the most about engineering is taking something from an idea and turning it into a physical object,” said Brandon Pitts. “I’ve really enjoyed seeing the whole process and learn from the prototyping. You have to make changes all the time to get it just right, which has been a learning experience.”
Bobby Jones, 3C director of engineering and project management, said partnering with the Rural Works! program at N.C. State opened the company up to a wider pool of potential interns and allowed 3C to find the right candidate.
“Being in a small community, your pool of applicants is going to be more limited. We’ve done the community college route and put job listings in the Wilson Daily Times,” Jones said. “With this program, N.C. State screens the candidates and gives us some resumes that fit what we’re looking for and allow us to reach out to the individuals. It was a win-win from the start.”
The university piloted the Rural Works! program in 2018 with four students serving as summer interns with employers in Tier 1 and Tier 2 communities. Due to the response to the pilot program, the effort expanded with 18 students from the College of Engineering working at companies in the state’s most economically distressed communities.
“Many rural communities in North Carolina — and across the U.S. — report talented young people leave to attend college and choose not to return,” according to a press release from the university. “Rural Works! seeks to combat this issue by matching interest and opportunity, as some students return to their home counties for rewarding summer opportunities and others explore new towns and opportunities.”
The Spring Hope native’s father works in Wilson at SPC Mechanical. The 20-year-old student was an intern with Strickland Bros Enterprises in his home town last year and was excited to try something new this year.
“Since he has been here, Brandon has had the opportunity to work on a few key projects for us. The UPS Store has a locker we’re developing for a roll-out in 20 stores and the amount of SKUs that will take to build it is between 100 and 150, but Brandon has made sure the information to our plant is correct for manufacturing it,” Jones said. “He’s also worked on a sound box for Ikea that started as a rendering of what they want. He’s done not only the drawing, but he figured out what building materials it will take to manufacture and now we have a prototype of it in the plant.”
While Pitts’ internship is coming to an end in the next few weeks, he said he’s really enjoyed the experience.
“I think that work experience is critical in the engineering industry,” he said. “A lot of the skills can’t be learned in class, but are things you just have to pick up doing the work in a real-world environment.”
The Southern Nash graduate is set to finish his degree with a minor in graphic communications in May. He said he plans to consider jobs in the area, including 3C. Will Webb, a 3C industrial engineer, started at the company in high school and continued while at Wilson Community College and N.C. Wesleyan College.
“I did a little bit of everything as an intern. I worked in maintenance, production and then in college, I worked as a project manager assistant,” Webb said. “When I was looking for a job, I feel like I had an advantage over the other applicants because I knew how the business worked and had worked in so many different departments, so when I was hired, I started as a project manager.”
The company has come a long ways since building kitchen cabinets on founder Tony Daniels’ Black Creek farm.
“From my first job here gathering information and creating continuity with our drawings and cut list, 3C has always been a family-oriented business. That was the way Tony and his wife Carol wanted it to be,” Jones said. “We wanted to be a big player, but we didn’t want to lose the sense of where we came from and that has always been stressed. We won’t always be the cheapest, but we offer good quality for a good price and we kill our customers with good service.”