On March 3 of this year, Clemson University held a Business and Education Forum focused on preparing students for the workforce of the future. Mike Derby, Chair PACE, the Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE), opened the forum with comments about PACE and the need for workforce training and education in the Anderson, Pickens and Oconee areas. PACE and Tri-County Technical College provide a structure for AOP educators and business partners to work together, through collaboration on best practices and regional strategies, in support of career pathways that ensure students are prepared for the next level of education or to enter the workplace. The Board is composed of area superintendents, area businesses and industry representatives: Tri-County Technical College, Clemson University, Business Education Partnerships, Economic Development offices, and Worklink.
Hosted by Clemson University Center for Workforce Development, Tri-County Technical College and the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the forum addressed South Carolina’s staggering workforce demand. Larry Smith, former plant manager at Schneider Electric in Seneca and past President of the Oconee County Industrial Group, was the keynote speaker. He touched on the statistics that show South Carolina has an increasing need for a high-skilled workforce but is challenged by the aging workforce and the robust growth of the business and industry sectors in the state.
Tri-County Technical College hosted a seminar during the forum addressing the last two years and the next two years regarding training the workforce in the tri-county area. “Our Education and Industry leaders are now working together to increase the numbers of students in Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties that will pursue the challenging and lucrative careers in Advanced Manufacturing and related ‘high-tech’ and ‘in-demand’ fields,” said Rick Murphy, Tri-County Regional Workforce Advisor with the SC Department of Commerce. “Tri-County Technical College and our seven school districts have grown the Technical Career Pathways program from only 7 students two years ago to 166 students this year, and we only see the numbers increasing as more people are aware of the current opportunities.”
Students also shared their success stories, highlighting technical career paths via The Germany Experience. Students Kenneth Buchanan from Crescent High School, Michael Dayne Chandler of Wren High School, and Paige Johnson from Oconee’s Career Center shared their stories, along with Pickens County’s United Tool Apprentice, Hoke Durham.
A lively panel discussed workforce challenges and solutions for the tri-county area, followed by questions and answers from the audience.
Ms. Kovacs, Facilitator
Mr. Richard Blackwell, Oconee Economic Alliance
Ms. Jackie Blakley, TCTC Business & Public Services Division
Mr. Bobby Brothers, Ready SC
Ms. Amy Cribb, BorgWarner
Dr. Mason Gary, Anderson School District 3
Ms. Hollie Harrell, Anderson 1 & 2 Career and Technology Center
Mr. Tom O’Hanlan, Sealevel Systems, Inc.
Mr. Mike Oster, Michelin North America
Tom O’Hanlan, CEO of Sealevel Systems, Inc. explained the formation of Manufacturers Caring for Pickens County (MCPC) and its advocacy for STEM Education, Economic Development and Social benefits, that impact quality of life and growth in Pickens County. “Students and educators tour the facilities of MCPC members and it gives them a real look at the modern day factory floor where education meets hands on experience,” Tom explained.
Also, Sealevel hosts four interns from the Pickens County and Technology Career Center through Project Lead the Way (PLTW), an Engineering program that prepares students for the global economy to be tomorrow’s problems solvers, critical thinkers, and innovators. Students taking PLTW engineering classes learn how to apply science, math, and technology to solve complex problems, and relate it to a real world setting. The PLTW courses offer students an insight to a variety of engineering disciplines. The interns at Sealevel are rotating through the company’s electronic assembly line that provides experience in building, programming, testing and experience with the surface mount technology line.
With forums like the Business and Education Forum at Clemson University and businesses like Sealevel Systems, workforce development is growing strong in the Tri-county area. Business and industry, along with a strong education, remain the keys to creating workforce solutions for South Carolina’s manufacturing future.