By Greg Oliver
LIBERTY - United Tool and Mold Inc. President Scott Phipps said that in order for the U.S. to regain its position as market leaders, preparing the employees of tomorrow is now a must.
As a result, United Tool and Mold Inc. is teaming up with The Pickens County Career and Technology Center to provide an apprenticeship program being dubbed “the first of its kind in the Upstate.” The School-to-Registered Apprenticeship Program will offer on-the-job training for 10th through 12th grade students combined with specialized classes at the Career and Technology Center.
“This country was founded and built on skilled trades,” Phipps told students Wednesday in announcing the first such federally recognized program in the Upstate and only the second in South Carolina. “We’ve got to get back on track and we want to be part of that.”
Phipps said that means providing jobs those employees can take pride in as well as enjoy and prosper.
“If you have passion for what you do, you will be as successful as you want to be,” he said.
The goal of the program is for the career center to provide students with job ready skills as soon as they are finished with high school. In doing so, they hope to provide a pipeline of skilled workers for local manufacturers.
On-the-job training is one facet of the apprenticeship program.
“Juniors in high school receive the opportunity to apply, do interviews, come in, learn about the business and develop the skill set they need to develop for their senior year at the career center,” said Jeromy Arnett, production administration manager and coordinator of apprenticeships for United Tool and Mold. “They will then co-op their senior year, go to Tri-County Technical College to earn their associate degree, graduate and then come back with us through the adult apprenticeship program.
“We give them the tools they need to be successful, productive adults in Pickens County. These kids are our future. If we don’t give back now, how can we expect more from them in 20 years?”
Easley High School seniors Ryan Lamb and Toby Wofford took part in the apprenticeship program earlier this year and juniors Brandon Richards, of Daniel High School, and Dexter Duncan, of Pickens High School have been selected to begin in January.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to get out and get prepared for what I’m going to be doing in a job, to learn more about it and get better at it,” Richards said, adding that his post-graduation plans in 2014 are to go to a technical college and concentrate on a career in machinery.
Kelly Pew, superintendent of the School District of Pickens County, said the district’s goal is to prepare students for what they do after high school — whether that means going to a four-year college, two-year college or entering into the workforce.
“We’ve got to make sure we prepare students with a skill set so when they leave our schools, they will be hired,” Pew said. “We want them to see the money that can be made in these jobs and see what these jobs are all about before they leave high school.”