Central Carolina Technical College will address two issues at once with its youth apprenticeship program: preparing high school seniors for careers in mechatronics and machine tools and increasing the workforce for local industries.
The program …
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The program for rising seniors - students who are now juniors - allows them the chance to earn certifications and college credits, receive training and earn a paycheck studying mechatronics and machine tools all while earning a high school diploma, said Brian Rauschenbach, project manager for Sumter Economic Development, which is partnering with the college and six local industries to bring the opportunity to Sumter.
He said the program - set to start in August for the upcoming fall semester - is open to students who attend public, private and home school in Sumter and Clarendon counties.
Participating companies include BD, Bicycle Corporation of America, Caterpillar Precision Pin, Caterpillar Hydraulics, Continental Tire the Americas and Kaydon.
It's clearly evident, Rauschenbach said, there is an ever-growing need to develop a local pipeline of talent for local industries.
Total investment in the area has exceeded $257 million, he said, and 199 new jobs have been created in manufacturing and industrial expansion or the construction of new organizations.
That's about $8 million in additional wages, he said.
Therefore, Rauschenbach said, there is a huge need in this area for people in mechatronics and machine tools.
Elizabeth Williams, CCTC dean of workforce development, said students will start off earning $11 per hour and that there could be opportunities within the individual companies for growth in task and pay.
This program is also a great opportunity for students to get their foot in the door, she said, though there is no guarantee of employment at the end of the program.
However, Williams said, students will graduate high school with certificates in mechatronics and machine tools from nationally recognized apprenticeships because the companies must register their programs through the U.S. Department of Labor.
A lot of young folks just don't know about the programs out there, so the main objective is to reach out to the schools, said David Eargle, Caterpillar Hydraulics Sumter Facility procurement manager.
The company has to find the needed talent because there is such a high turnover rate, he said. Some of that can be attributed to people not having the training they need and also others not knowing about opportunities to receive adequate training.
You have to set a foundation, he said.
And this opportunity is huge, Eargle said, and exactly what the area needs.
In the 1990s, Eargle joined a similar program about a year after graduating high school.
A few years later, he said he was making more money than his peers who went to four-year universities.
"It was the best decision of my life," he said. "It was an incredible foundation. It was beneficial and has gotten me to where I am now."
Student engagement through the program will connect what the students learn in school to what they would do on the job, said LaShonna Meagley, Bicycle Corporation of America human resources manager.
And that effort will pay off, she said.
The employer has to do the best to attract the best, said Miroslav Gyarmathy, Continental Tire the Americas Sumter Plant human relations specialist.
"I think this is the way forward," he said.
This support will allow students to study further for careers in leadership and technology, he said.
Meagley said she thinks there will be more interest in the mechatronics and machine tools fields with the implementation of the program.
There are already a lot of students who are tinkerers, she said, who will get to follow their passion into a career and get paid for it.
It's going to be a life-long learning experience, CCTC President Michael Mikota said.
The college is leading the way in this region with this kind of educational opportunity, he said. Trident Technical College in Charleston has a similar program for students in the southern coastal areas of the state, according to Rauschenbach and Mikota.
In the future, Mikota said, there will be opportunities to partner with companies in other sectors whether it be health care or hospitality.
The college is excited about the opportunity to showcase this pathway for students, he said, and help them gain advanced experience outside of the classroom.
Students and parents interested in the program can learn more at a student/parent night at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the CCTC Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center, 853 Broad St.
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