October 1, 2014
The MTU Aiken plant in Graniteville recently received the small/medium manufacturer of the year award by the S.C. Chamber of Commerce.
MTU, a German company producing large diesel engines in Aiken County, is among the first winners of the new Palmetto Vision awards from among hundreds of companies nominated statewide.
The Chamber is honoring the companies for their contributions to their communities, the economy and the environment.
“This is a well-deserved recognition for MTU,” said David Jameson, the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce president. “When they came in, they started at a reasonable size and said they were going to grow. I’m so impressed with their workforce. It’s been a win-win from every angle.”
MTU has increased its original workforce from 250 staffers to the current 300.
The award is a result of the hard work of the company and its employees, said Jens Baumeister, MTU’s director of operations in Aiken.
“While this is an incredible honor, we have much more to achieve as we continue to grow and work to be a model for businesses throughout the state,” Baumeister said.
From the outset, MTU has partnered with the Aiken County School District and Aiken Technical College.
Last spring, the plant welcomed 90 high school freshman girls for a tour, a chance to meet female employees and to participate in technology and science-based activities.
Joerg Klisch, MTU America’s vice president of operations, has spearheaded the introduction of apprenticeships, modeled after the long-established German program. It has received national attention – the subject of a televised program hosted by former CBS broadcaster Dan Rather. Afterward, The New York Times ran a front-page story and a video.
Three Aiken County Career Center students completed training at school and also in training programs at MTU.
Two of them passed a final exam, “which gives them an international degree,” Klisch said. “It’s almost unheard of (in the U.S.) to have apprenticeships with high school students.”
During a ceremony in August, Caleb Dyer – one of the international degree recipients – said the program opened his eyes.
“I found a lot in common with the (employees),” Dyer said last month. “The engineers basically taught us everything we learned on the machines as to what we would be making. I wouldn’t be here without them.”
A total of 12 juniors and seniors are enrolled in the apprentice program this year.
Instructors Quintin Cooks, Bob Molkenthin and Stan Johnson are working with the students in collaboration with MTU employees.
“The first year is always the roughest,” Molkenthin said. “Now the kids realize the opportunity they have. You have the possibility of being part of a program like this and make money while you’re in high school.”