panel discussion - jeromy arnett, susan miller and leesa owens DSC_1727.jpg

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                       11/16/2018

                                                                                                (By Lisa Garrett)

PENDLETON --- Representatives from business, industry and education gathered November 15 to discuss ways they can partner with Tri-County Technical College to create work-based learning and youth apprenticeship experiences that can supply their workforce needs.

The event was held in conjunction with National Apprenticeship Week (November 12 – 18, 2018), a national week-long celebration that highlights the benefits of apprenticeships in preparing a highly-skilled workforce to meet the talent needs of employers across diverse industries.

“We want to connect K-12, Tri-County and employees more intentionally to build a strong workforce,” Tri-County’s Senior Vice President Galen DeHay said to the employers, as well as the school district representatives.  “We want to work together to meet your workforce needs. We have the students and the programs here at Tri-County. Youth apprenticeships are one more way we can partner to meet and address your current and future workforce needs.”

Apprenticeships are the key to producing work-ready graduates, said Carla Whitlock, senior Apprenticeship Carolina consultant.  She outlined how the registered youth apprenticeship program can create a pipeline of skilled workers for today’s advanced manufacturing and business jobs. 

The fastest-growing segment of Apprenticeship Carolina is the Youth Apprenticeship program which allows a student to complete and receive a credential from the U.S. Department of Labor.  There are almost 200 Youth Apprentices across the state.  The program combines a high school curriculum and career and technology training with critical on-the-job training performed at a local business. Students can earn while they learn through part-time work while earning a national credential in one of many high-demand occupations.

Whitlock said the three program components for a Youth Apprenticeship include:

A job-related educational experience which includes high school, Tri-County or dual enrollment

Supervised on-the-job learning by a company based on its needs and the participant’s occupation

Wage progression

“The process is simple and isn’t paperwork laden,” said Whitlock.

The first step is for employers and Apprenticeship Carolina to identify workforce needs and skills gaps, which will be influenced by the number of retirements in the future.  Based on that information, Apprenticeship Carolina designs the program, the company approves it and the delivery phase begins.  “We have service after the sale,” Whitlock stressed.  “We have specialists who help with registration.  We are with you through the life of the program,” she said.

Industry clusters include manufacturing, construction, health care, energy and IT.

In addition to gaining a skilled workforce, companies say the benefits of an apprenticeship are the opportunity for succession planning, the chance to standardize skills across the occupation, reduced turnover and a $1,000 (per apprentice) state tax credit that can offset training costs.

A panel of business leaders featuring Jeromy Arnett, existing industry and workforce development manager for Alliance Pickens; Susan Miller, human resources manager for Greenfield Industries; and Leesa Owens, director of state, local government and community relations for Michelin, discussed how the best and most effective ways to close the skills gaps in today’s workforce involve partnerships, training and apprenticeships/internships.

Miller said an aging workforce -- many of Greenfield’s employees have been there 25 – 30 years -- prompted the company to seek youth apprentices to fill that impending skills gap.  “We partnered with Apprenticeship Carolina and Tri-County for Hamilton Career Center students to work at our facility and after graduation to enter Tri-County’s Mechatronics program,” she said.

Arnett, former production administration manager at United Tool and Mold in Easley, said the company established the first Youth Apprentice in the Upstate. 

“Apprenticeship Carolina takes the guesswork out of the process and gives you a template to work with,” said Arnett.  “They help you to determine the educational requirements and on-the-job training hours.  About a month later you receive paperwork and now you have a registered certified program. The hardest part is deciding what you want the employees to learn and train in.“

An aging workforce also was the company’s reason to start an apprentice program, he said.  “Another bonus is a return on the investment.  You are gaining years of experience by hiring a 17 year old,” he said.  “A 17 year old with three years of machining experience at a career center is an asset as opposed to a 22 year old who has never seen the machinery he or she will be working on,” he said.

“Don’t get scared by age,” he cautioned.  “Don’t let that keep you from making a sound investment in your company.”

Owens said the Michelin Technical Scholars program grew out of a workforce deficit in reliability technicians (high-tech reliability technicians have mechanical and electrical skills).  “That is the most difficult position to fill,” she said.  Scholarship recipients also gain on-the-job experience through part-time paid employment opportunities with Michelin.  They can graduate and be hired as full-time Michelin employees.

Following a change in the company’s self-imposed policy of not employing persons under the age of 18, the Youth Apprentice program will serve as a feeder into the Technical Scholars program, she said.  The Youth Apprenticeship program will begin in January 2019.

Owens said school district, career center and Tri-County folks worked with Michelin’s training team to determine what they want students to learn and accomplish.  “They were very helpful in deciding our swim length if you will,” she said.

Miller said her company’s next steps are to grow its youth apprentice participation.  “We will partner with schools and find more good students to join Greenfield Industries,” said Miller.

“Apprenticeships are a great entry point to a lifetime of learning,” said DeHay.

“Tri-County is excited to be your partner and we would love to see more youth apprenticeships in the Upstate.  The opportunity here is to take our partnerships with K-12 and link them with a youth apprenticeship experience,” he said.

Options include the Technical Career Pathways programs which are intentionally designed for students to achieve college certifications while they are in high school.  The Technical Career Pathways program gives high school students a head start on college, allowing them to complete an associate degree within one year of full-time study after high school. 

Another option is Manufacturing Works, a brand new pathway program that trains students for operator level jobs. 

Beginning this spring, Belton-Honea Path High School students will have the opportunity to gain technical skills while exploring careers in manufacturing through a new certificate program to be offered by Tri-County Technical College.

High school seniors enrolled in the Manufacturing Works program will complete three college courses at Tri-County Technical College and have an opportunity for a paid summer work experience.  Belton-Honea Path High School is partnering with the College to launch the program in January, 2019. 

Upon completion of the program, students will earn a certificate in Manufacturing Production I from Tri-County Technical College and be ready to enter full-time employment in manufacturing or continue their education to earn an associate degree in an engineering or industrial technology field.