Date: October 26, 2021
By Lisa Garrett
PENDLETON -- Eight TCTC students joined the BASF team this past summer as apprentices who will pursue a credential while also earning a full-time wage through on-the-job training at the company’s Seneca plant.
BASF, TCTC and Apprenticeship Carolina joined with other community partners at the Oconee Campus June 14 to launch the BASF North American Apprenticeship Development Program. This collaboration is a partnership between BASF, TCTC, Apprenticeship Carolina and readySC.
“This unique partnership creates a clear, structured workforce pipeline and is a wonderful opportunity to work for a great company in the Seneca area,” said TCTC President Galen DeHay.
“It’s an opportunity to learn at TCTC through credit and non-credit classes, earn a paycheck and a credential,” said Amy Firestone, vice president of Apprenticeship Carolina. “It also supports a long-term talent pipeline development strategy,” she added.
Elba Lizardi, BASF Seneca site director, said the program aims to meet future talent needs for a skilled and diverse technician workforce with an emphasis on attracting more females to these roles. “Our company wants to grow in diversity and inclusion at this site and globally,” she said. “We met our goal for 22-24% female leadership two years before our 2021 goal in 2019, so we set a new goal of 30% female leadership by 2030, and this program helps us make progress on achieving that goal.”
Starting mid-June, these apprentices began attending classes one to two days a week at Tri-County’s Oconee Campus while working as operations process technicians at BASF’s Seneca facility. The eight-month apprenticeship program pays apprentices a full-time wage and full benefits to participate in on-the-job training at BASF’s Seneca facility while earning a certificate in Process Technology from Tri-County. At the end of the program, apprentices have the skills and credentials to be placed in permanent positions at BASF’s Seneca site.
In addition to paying a competitive wage, BASF offers benefits and covers the cost of tuition, books and fees associated with the certificate program.
There are varying reasons why the BASF apprenticeship program caught the attention of the eight participants.
Some are just starting their careers, like Josh Gambrell, 22, of Mountain Rest, who entered The Citadel right after graduating from West-Oak High School and earned a Criminal Justice degree with the goal of working in law enforcement. He reconsidered his career choice but finished his bachelor’s and returned to Oconee County to find a job. He heard about the BASF program and was interested. “My father works at the facility, and I know it is a great company where I can pursue a good career with good wages. I love the hands-on aspect of the job and finding ways to make the process better.”
Several relocated home to Oconee County.
Austin McMahan, 25, of Salem, took general education classes at Lander University for a year before enlisting in the Air Force. After six years on active duty, he didn’t reenlist and came back to Oconee County and applied for the program. “I noticed immediately that BASF is invested in this program and its people,” said Austin.
“The company’s culture and its attention to diversity and inclusion are what caught my eye,” said Tasha Baker, 38, of Walhalla, who worked as a dental assistant and most recently in manufacturing until her job ended. She said when she read the promotional flyer, she noticed the company was actively seeking women and minorities. “That appealed to me,” she said.
Other participants were looking for a career change after job burnout and/or a layoff. For Gabriel Landrith, 45, of Walhalla, and a graduate of the College of Charleston, it’s his first time working in manufacturing. He says he experienced job burnout after a career working in patient residential/group homes and MUSC institute of psychiatry. “I appreciate learning a new skill at no cost while earning a paycheck,” he said.
Victor Ikenna Odor, 37, is new to the Unites States after moving from Nigeria. Leshekia Hall, 43, of Anderson, previously worked in retail and in manufacturing. Both she and Victor were looking for a career that offered opportunity for growth.
“Just eight weeks into the program, I already feel like a member of the team,” said Ronni Bentley, of Seneca, 33, a first-time college student who spent the last decade working in manufacturing. “What stands out for me is how BASF cares about its employees.”
This program is funded by a $45,000 grant from Apprenticeship Carolina through the Department of Labor State Apprenticeship Expansion grant (administered by Apprenticeship Carolina).
These funds are specifically designated to support the College’s collaboration with BASF and its North American Apprenticeship Development Program. Last year the College was awarded $90,340 for this apprenticeship initiative.
About Tri-County Technical College
Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities. To learn more, visit tctc.edu.