Robbie Ferris speaks of career center plans

LUMBERTON – Public Schools of Robeson County high school administrators had the opportunity to discuss with other district leaders recently what the Robeson County Career and Technology Education Center might look like.

PSRC Board of Education Chair John Simmons and Board members Linda Emanuel, Vonta Leach, Henry Brewer and William Gentry joined high school principals, Career and Technical Education staff, Central Office staff, and others gathered at PSRC Central Office on July 13 to discuss their vision for the project.

Red Springs High School Principal Jamal Campbell said the center will be a “catalyst for change” for Robeson County children. 

Campbell said he envisions children being excited to come to school and learn at the new center. 

PSRC Board of Education member Vonta Leach said he is excited about the multipurpose use of classroom space. 

“I’m glad that we can be able to have it done here so our kids can take advantage of it,” Leach said. 

Board of Education member Dr. Linda Emanuel spoke of the importance of support from schools and businesses to help the center thrive. 

“The future is with technology high schools,” Emanuel said. 

Robbie Ferris, owner and CEO of SfL+a Architects, delivered a digital presentation that inspired discussions around program requirements and design aesthetics. 

“The Robeson County Career and Technical Education Center will be a state-of-the-art, interactive, and inviting facility that will have a transformative impact on how the children of Robeson County think about their future,” Ferris said. 

“The innovative, industry-focused education and skills developed at this facility will empower students to thrive in a rewarding career of their choosing,” he added.

Multiple people said they enjoyed the use of wood in the interior design of the images provided, which gave a more refined look to the design.

Discussions also took place about programs to be included in Phase I of the project. Talks of programs to be included in the first phase included Drone Technology, Culinary Arts and Construction programs. 

 Channing Jones, Robeson County's Economic Development director, also was present and said that the largest employment base in the county is manufacturing.

 Jones mentioned the importance of courses surrounding industrial maintenance and how necessary the job is to equip future workers at local manufacturing, distribution and warehousing operations.

 In addition to manufacturing, construction, health care, engineering and Information Technology fields of study have the highest potential for future employment, according to Jones. 

 He also spoke of the need for a Graphic Design course and stated that the demand is high for graphic designers. 

 “We need to be able to create good-paying jobs for the children and for the families in Robeson County,” Jones said. 

 Jones said at least 14 letters of support have been received from companies in support of the center.


  The Robeson County Career and Technology Education Center, will house a planetarium and multiple programs such as Automotive Technology, Culinary Arts, and much more. 

The project will be split into two phases. The first phase, which is fully funded, includes a 90,000-square-foot building and the second phase includes the addition of more space. When the project is complete, the center is projected to span roughly 129,000-square-feet.

The plan is to design the building in its entirety, pursue more funding and then build the center all at once, according to Ferris.

PSRC Superintendent Freddie Williamson spoke of the goals associated with education in the new center.

“Our intent is to give students the ability to earn multiple certifications and multiple credentials,” Williamson said. 


The project is currently funded at $60 million. The first phase is projected to cost $59.99 million. The total project is projected to cost $97 million. 

Funding has been allocated from $50 million in the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund and $5 million from the state budget. The Robeson County Board of Commissioners has contributed $2.5 million to the effort and $2.5 million more will come from the school district’s Capital Reserve Fund.

The school district will continue to seek $37 million in funding for Phase II of the project. 


PSRC Board of Education member Henry Brewer, right, speaks during a July 13 discussion about the design and vision for Robeson County Career and Technology Education Center as high school principals, Robert Locklear, assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability, third from right, and Bobby Locklear, second from right, assistant superintendent of Auxiliary Services, listen on. 

 Robbie Ferris, owner and CEO of SFL+a Architects, speaks July 13 to school district staff, high school administrators and others during a meeting about the design of the Robeson County Career and Technology Education Center. During the meeting, several photos of interior designs and exterior building architecture were shown for the firm to gather ideas of design preferences.