Furniture Academy Celebrates SOFA Graduates | Local News


HICKORY – The Catawba Valley Furniture Academy recently celebrated the graduates of its Summer Student Furniture Apprenticeship (SOFA) program.

Among the students recognized at the graduation ceremony were Kalaya Vang, Kaitlyn Killian and Evan Lambert.

Attending the graduation ceremony were Robin Ross, CVCC Vice President for Talent Development/K64; Gary Muller, Executive Dean Economic Development and Corporate Education; Randy Burns, Senior Executive Director of Corporate and Economic Development; Emily McNeely, Human Resources Director of Bassett Furniture; Kelly Benfield, Bassett Furniture Product Development; Windy Wilcox, Century Furniture Sewing Supervisor and CVFA Instructor; Caren Howard, Human Resources Manager of Century Furniture; Jared Nava-Salgado, associate director of human resources for Century Furniture; Jason Connell, HBF/HNI Lean Development Manager and CVFA Instructor; Catherine Schiffell, CVFA instructor; and Cindy Fulbright, Director of CVFA and Alexander Furniture Academies.

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“This was Bassett’s first year participating in the SOFA program, and we look forward to being a part of this partnership for years to come,” said Emily McNeely, Human Resources Manager for Bassett Furniture. “This program is so valuable that it opens the door to a fulfilling career for many young high school students as well as graduates. During the summer apprenticeship, the students were able to discover the know-how of the manufacture of a piece of furniture. Whether they choose to continue in the furniture industry or choose a different path, they have learned a valuable skill set that they can always come back to.

The SOFA program provides high school students aged 16 to 18 with the knowledge and skills to develop a new career in furniture with the aim of being able to explore a career as a skilled craftsman in several disciplines – sewing, upholstery, hand cutting , spring-up and frame construction.

“Century Furniture is honored to work with CVCC and the SOFA program,” said Caren Howard, Human Resources Director of Century Furniture. “It’s exciting to know that high school students are interested in the future of furniture making and want to be part of it. Hopefully, through the eight-week program, students can be exposed to careers as skilled furniture craftsmen, such as cutters, sewers, spring operators, upholsterers and technicians. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to show them that they can earn a good salary in a clean and safe work environment. We look forward to enrolling more students in the program next year.

Through the SOFA program, students earn money, high school credits, college certificates, and a state certificate with ApprenticeshipNC and explore different careers in the furniture industry.

“We feel fortunate to have participated in the development and implementation of the SOFA program,” said Marta Truitt of CR Laine. “Our group wanted to reach young people and their parents and make them aware of the opportunities available in furniture. This program gives students a chance to immerse themselves in the furniture industry and hopefully decide to pursue a career in furniture manufacturing.

The SOFA program was formed through the collaboration of the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy of CVCC, North Carolina Community College System and ApprenticeshipNC, Catawba County Schools, Hickory Public Schools, Newton-Conover City Schools , Century Furniture, CR Laine Furniture, Geiger International, HBF Textiles. , Hickory Chair, Lexington Home Brands, Restoration Hardware, Sherrill Furniture and Vanguard Furniture.

“It is through these industry and business partnerships that we can provide our young adults with pathways to successful careers,” said Kimberly Propst, Learning Coordinator at Catawba Valley Community College. “Apprenticeships give us the flexibility to simultaneously provide post-secondary education and industry training while being paid. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Going forward, the SOFA program will fall under the new Catawba Learning Network, sponsored by Catawba Valley Community College. This program will continue to recruit high school students in advanced manufacturing, furniture trades, healthcare and public safety. The development of this program was designed through the efforts of Catawba Valley Community College and local industry partners.

For more information about CVCC’s SOFA program, contact CVCC’s Business Development Center at 828-327-7000, ext. 4294, or visit

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