Aiken County teachers learn manufacturing technology in local tours

June 14, 2016

Aiken County teachers and guidance counselors visited area manufacturing facilities Monday to take a closer look at apprenticeship programs and potential career paths for high school students.

The programs are designed to prepare students for highly skilled positions at some of Aiken County’s biggest employers and are conducted under the supervision of Aiken County Career and Technology Center, or ACCTC.

Allison Crow, guidance counselor at ACCTC, said these apprenticeships are part of the Machine Tool Technology program. The students who are accepted into the program begin work and study after their sophomore year of high school. During their summers, they work full-time under the supervision of experienced trainers. Students take an exam at the end of the summer following their high school graduation and those who pass earn certificates, work keys, and college credit.

The educators first stopped at the MTU manufacturing facility and were given an up-close view of processes and capabilities of the plant.

MTU senior manager Jeremy Diebel said, “We treat them like full-time employees. They work every piece of equipment and process here.”

The tour moved from MTU to the Bridgestone off road radial tire manufacturing facility just a few miles down the road. The facility runs continuous operation building large tires, up to sizes that fit a 63-inch wheel, used in gigantic trucks for mining and other large-scale industries. According to a spokesperson with Bridgestone, the company does not yet have an apprenticeship type program, but they are actively working to lay the foundation for such a program.

Educators were walked through operations at both installations, including video presentations and live demonstrations. The tours were meant to address stigmas about the manufacturing industry and give teachers practical examples they can teach in the classroom.

North Augusta High School Principal John Murphy said, “This gives the teachers an opportunity to see what the post-secondary education workforce looks like. They can take from today and communicate in the classrooms about real-world applications.”

Murphy said it also helps teachers and counselors guide students throughout their education.

“Whether students go into a technical college or go straight into the workforce, we have jobs right here for them to go into. They can get a trade so they can get into a career and earn enough to raise a family,” he said.

The group also attended presentations by the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization, and the South Carolina Economic Development Partnership about the future needs of the area’s workforce. The day came to an end with a tour of Aiken Technical College’s Center for Energy and Advanced Manufacturing.

Aiken County Public Schools guidance counselor Gina Bassford said, “The message we got from today was that high quality, high caliber jobs are available here for our students. They want to know they can earn a living and support a family without having to worry about their light bill.”

Thomas Gardiner is the SRS beat reporter for the Aiken Standard. Gardiner is a Marine Corps veteran and originally hails from Amarillo, Texas.

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