November 30, 2018
GRANITEVILLE — Aiken Technical College has received a grant totaling about $60,000 from the state to implement a ManuFirst SC Certificate program.
The announcement of the initiative, which will provide free training to qualified South Carolina residents who are unemployed or underemployed, was made Friday at the college’s Center for Energy and Advanced Manufacturing. It is a collaboration between the college, the South Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership.
“This is basically a really unique time in the state of South Carolina where we have historically low unemployment (3.3 percent), but we still have a very large demand for workers in manufacturing sectors,” Aiken Technical College President Dr. Forest Mahan said.
According to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, more than 2,400 Aiken County residents are either unemployed or underemployed.
“Our manufacturers have more job openings than there are available qualified applicants,” said Will Williams, the president and CEO of the Economic Development Partnership.
ManuFirst is an entry-level Advanced Manufacturing Certification that includes 62 hours of state-funded training in safety, quality practices and management, manufacturing processes and production, maintenance awareness and OSHA-10.
The training is free for the first 85 accepted applicants.
“ManuFirst SC is a dynamic program that will benefit both our manufacturers and those seeking manufacturing jobs,” Williams said. “It has been successful in other parts of South Carolina, and I am excited about the potential this program has for Aiken County.”
Applicants must be at least 18, have at least a high school diploma or GED, score silver or better on the WorkKeys/WIN Test and be committed to completing the program.
Information sessions are scheduled for Dec. 11, Jan. 9 and Jan. 23 at the college’s 700 Building Amphitheater. All sessions are at 6 p.m.
Dr. Steven Simmons, the college’s dean of business, computer technology and training, said the “goal is to launch the first classes in February.” They are scheduled to run Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Other classes are planned for March and the April-May time period.
“Our goal is to have 20 students in each of those classes,” Simmons said.
Twenty-five slots have been set aside for Aiken County Public Schools through a partnership with the Aiken County Career and Technology Center.
“Our goal is to have 25 18-year-olds who have graduated from high school attend a dedicated program for ManuFirst and hopefully be able to get them employed before the summer’s out,” Simmons said.
Area companies working with the college on the initiative are AGY, Aiken Personnel Services, Aiken Precision Technologies, BAE Systems, Graniteville Specialty Fabrics, MTU and The Carlstar Group.
Simmons hopes to increase the number of partners to 12.
“We think we are going to be able to expand beyond that,″ he said. “As I’ve talked to many manufacturers, they’re excited about what the possibilities are.”
Community partners who will help promote the program to employers are Aiken County Public Schools, the Aiken County Adult Education Center, the Concerned Ministers Fellowship, the Economic Development Partnership, the Lower Savannah Council of Governments and the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department.
When students graduate, they will receive a ManuFirst SC Certificate from the college and an OSHA-10 card and receive job search and résumé writing guidance in partnerships with the SC Works Center, getting them prepared to meet with employers, Simmons said.
Those who complete the program will be invited to a mini-job fair.
“Getting the education and training is extremely important, but connecting these individuals with employers looking to hire, that’s where the rubber meets the road,” Simmons said.
“The ultimate goal for me is to develop a model of sustainability for the future, so when the grand funding goes away, if this model of training individuals to go to work is successful, then how can we continue to support this as a community and keep it going and develop it and grow it even further.”