South Carolina's success in being just right for new investment, growing its existing companies and creating jobs is in no small measure due to the availability of a highly skilled workforce and training programs that assist business.
Just ask Schaeffler USA in Cheraw, which makes products and systems for engines, transmissions and chassis applications for customers that include Chrysler, Fiat, Harley-Davidson, Husqvarna, John Deere and Stanley Black & Decker.
The company has won numerous quality awards, and Phil Homan says some of the credit goes to the state-run Apprenticeship Carolina program that the company utilizes to train prospective skilled machinists and tool-and-die makers. Homan, Schaeffler USA's manager of human resources in Cheraw, says the company frequently utilizes the apprenticeship program run through Northeastern Technical College in Cheraw.
Apprenticeship Carolina consultants are available at no charge to employers, Homan notes, and can guide companies through the registered apprenticeship development process from initial information to full recognition in the national Registered Apprenticeship System.
Schaeffler has put 253 workers through the program so far and graduated 230; 86 percent of them are still with the company in skilled machinist, supervision and management roles, Homan says.
One of them is Jerry Bryant, who participated in Apprenticeship Carolina from 2000 to 2002 and today has advanced in the company to a group leader role in manufacturing.
“Apprenticeship Carolina launched my career with its two-year program, where I learned about statistics, physics and the technical side of manufacturing and tool-making that Schaeffler depends on,” Bryant says. “Since graduating from the program in late 2002, I worked as a tool-and-die machinist at Schaeffler for 10 years, then as a production manufacturing supervisor, then a project manager, and currently manufacturing group leader. I have also earned associate's degrees in occupational technology along with industrial technology along the way. The apprenticeship program got me rolling.”
Ready, Set, Go
South Carolina's readySC workforce training program works with the 16 technical colleges in the state to prepare workers to meet the needs of employers.
Ashton Elmore worked for readySC for two years prior to landing his current job as training manager at Continental Tire the Americas in Fort Mill. The tiremaker is building a $500 million manufacturing facility in Sumter that is ultimately expected to employ 1,600 workers.
“We don't have the manpower to interview, hire and train the 1,600 employees we will eventually need, so readySC has been doing all the recruiting tasks based on the upcoming needs of Continental,” Elmore says. “We couldn't do this massive evaluation and hiring process without them.”
The readySC program's mission is to help create jobs, and any company that is creating 10 jobs or more can utilize readySC services.
“Their staff members conduct a pre-hire program to teach applicants about Continental – including an overview about making tires and other processes – then readySC also does a two-week post-hiring process that informs employees on issues such as industrial safety, cultural awareness training, and communications skills,” Elmore says. “The readySC staff has been a vital extension of our human resources department here at Continental.”
Other companies that have successfully utilized the readySC program include A.I.D. Company, a manufacturer of aerospace components that in 2013 moved its operations from Georgia to Westminster, S.C.; and Accuride Wheel End Solutions, a company in Camden that makes aluminum wheels for semi-trucks and trailers.
“When I have job openings here at Accuride, besides contacting the local employment and workforce services, I also contact readySC,” says Gail Hornsby, human resources supervisor with Accuride Wheel End Solutions. “They know about companies that are laying off, who is shutting down, and know of skilled people out there who can fill our positions. In 2012, we had 40 people trained by readySC before they started work at Accuride. I've been in human resources for 25 years, and the people at readySC are very professional to work with for pre-employment and post-employment training. They are exceptional in recommending if a person is ultimately a good fit for Accuride.”