By Greg Oliver
PENDLETON — When Tristan Worley lost his job, he admits things got a little scary.
“I was looking for a way to provide for my family,” Worley said. “I was applying everywhere I could, but most were temp services that were low paying.”
Worley attended a job fair at Tri-County Technical College and learned about a scholarship opportunity. The class was a week of work-readiness training and a mix of industry-based basic skills training modules and work experience at local industries.
Worley was hired as a production technician at U.S. Engine Valve in Westminster two weeks before he finished the class and is now seeking his industrial electronics degree from Tech.
“They’re a great company and offer a lot of job security,” Worley said. “I wanted a company that looks out for its people and that’s like family and a lot of people have achieved 15 years perfect attendance. They want to be there.”
While the program changed Worley’s life for the better, the people involved with its development have revamped the program with a new name — the South Carolina Manufacturing Certification program – as well as enhancing what is offered for students.
During a Thursday morning breakfast held at the college, officials provided details regarding the changes. The enhancements included supplementing the curriculum with additional components and certifications — including OSHA, Six Sigma and Snap-On — and using hands-on simulations to increase students’ understanding of modern manufacturing processes.
Officials say the curriculum modifications have been designed to provide local industries with a pipeline of skilled entry-level operators.
“One of the reasons why people don’t have jobs is the lack of skill,” said Richard Parker, program director for the Center for Workforce Excellence at Tech. “South Carolina is ahead of the nation by training people who are already there or are coming through the door through apprenticeships.”
SCMC is a 200-hour curriculum that includes the opportunity to earn eight nationally recognized certifications. Topics include industrial safety, quality, blueprints and measurement, production processes and some basic understanding of industrial equipment and maintenance.
Participants are also required to have a high school diploma or GED and a Silver Career Readiness Certificate earned by taking the ACT WorkKeys assessments, which are also offered free of charge. The first SCMC 10-week class currently has 11 people and those who complete the program receive a credentials that meets industry standards.
Whitlock said each South Carolina company that registers an apprentice will receive a $1,000 tax credit per year for up to four years, which helps to offset training costs.
Mary Ann Craft, human resources manager for US Engine Valve, which employs approximately 400 overall, said the plant is seeking skilled workers, but doesn’t have assembly work to offer.
“It’s all machinists and what this program does is bring people like Tristan who have the desire to apply themselves for training,” Craft said. She said Worley is now working fulltime while seeking his degree, which is being funded by the plant.
“We have big plans for him,” Craft said. “We want to see him move into manufacturing and technical areas.”
The top economic heads for Oconee and Pickens counties, who were also in attendance at the breakfast, said the revamped certification program is exciting news.
“One of the key instruments driving economic development is having skills in place for manufacturing jobs,” said Oconee County Economic Development Director Richard Blackwell. “We feel this is the next chapter for economic development in Oconee County.”
Alliance Pickens Executive Director Ray Farley said SCMC will be “a valuable tool to our existing industries and newly recruited industries.”
“Skills availability is a premium in our marketplace and this program will provide a leg up in improving the skills development to satisfy the marketplace,” Farley said.
By Greg Oliver