Programs offer free school and paid part-time work

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Central Carolina Technical College has started another initiative it thinks will be a "win-win" for the community and local business and industry.

The WorkFirst career initiative will allow students to attend class to work toward a program certificate beginning in the fall semester while also being paid to work within the career field. Two programs of study - Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning/Refrigeration Technology and Machine Tool and Computer Numerical Control Technology - are the first at the college to offer an opportunity of this caliber, according to Brent Russell, dean of CCTC's Industrial and Engineering Technology Division.

Russell said local demand and job opportunities outweigh the number of students the college has in the two programs.

"In other words, we can't meet the demand that's out there," Russell said.

So, the college thought to further sweeten the incentive to go to school for free, offering paid part-time employment opportunities simultaneously could lure more applicants into the programs for this fall.

"Many people would love to go to school but need a little money to make ends meet and for gas and other things," Russell said. "So, they will be getting a paycheck for working but also be required to come to college."

As mentioned, the schooling will be free as the college will provide for each student's tuition and books.

Russell said he expects the part-time job opportunities to be between 20 and 25 hours a week. Seven local industries have signed up to participate in the Machine Tool/CNC career initiative, Russell said, including Caterpillar and Kaydon. Five local HVAC companies are signed on for the HVAC/R initiative, according to Russell. The industries will be able to interview and select students they want for the job opportunities.

As far as prerequisites, in addition to possessing a high school diploma or GED, student applicants must pass a drug screening and background check, which are also covered free of charge, Russell said.

SC Works, 31 E. Calhoun St. in Sumter, with satellite library locations in Manning and Bishopville, will provide funding to cover students' wages at the local industries.

According to Russell, the college has a limited number of slots available for both the HVAC/R and Machine Tool Technology programs. He said the Machine Tool certificate is a one-year program, while the HVAC/R certificate is a two-year program.

Russell said there are no guarantees for a full-time job once completing the programs of study, but students will certainly have a leg up on others with the hands-on experience and education.

"It's a great opportunity to learn on the job and go to school for free," Russell said. "We hope it will be a success. We think it's a win-win for everyone."