ATC announces new certificate program to provide free job training

December 4, 2018 GMT

GRANITEVILLE - South Carolina residents interested in a career in manufacturing will soon be able to participate in free training at Aiken Technical College.

The college received nearly $60,000 in grant funding from the State Workforce Development Board to implement a ManuFirst SC Certificate program to provide free training to state residents who are unemployed or underemployed.

“The importance of this program is to provide individuals who want to develop a long-term and lucrative career in manufacturing with the knowledge, skills, training and credentials to then be viable candidates for employers,” said Dr. Steven Simmons, ATC’s Dean of Business, Computer Technology and Training, on Friday at meeting with local business and education leaders to introduce the initiative.

“For the ability to be able to feed your family and take care of your loved ones with a career that offers benefits, retirement, health care, stability and a place to grow, manufacturing often is one of the best places to work,” he said. “Oftentimes, people don’t have the knowledge, skills and ability to be able to get that first entry-level job. This program bridges that gap. It provides individuals with the knowledge, skills, ability and credentials to be able to apply and be successful and gain employment in manufacturing.”

More than 2,400 Aiken County residents are unemployed and an additional number are underemployed, according to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

In a recent, brief survey conducted by ATC, several manufacturing companies located in the county are anticipating the need to hire, in total, at least 340 employees in 2019.

“We are at a critical point in workforce development,” said Will Williams, the president and CEO of the Economic Development Partnership, which collaborated with ATC on the initiative. “Our manufacturers have more job openings than there are available qualified applicants. We also know there are individuals who want to be employed within our manufacturing community but do not have the required skill sets. Our partners from the industrial side will also be able to find people because they need people to produce the products they make. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Williams said the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years has created a unique situation for employers and prospective employers.

“We want our existing manufacturers to grow and be successful, but we also want to be able to attract new industry in the area. The most important thing is having an available workforce,” he said.

The ManuFirst SC Certificate program consists of 62 hours of coursework that lead to an entry-level advanced manufacturing certification. During the training, students learn about safety, quality practices and measurement, manufacturing processes and production, maintenance awareness and OHSA-10.

Seven area companies already are partners with the college for this initiative. They are AGY, Aiken Personnel Services, Aiken Precision Technologies, BAE Systems, Graniteville Specialty Fabrics, MTU and The Carlstar Group.

As partners, the companies will consider people who have earned a ManuFirst SC Certificate for open positions, participate in post-training job fairs held for certificate completers and will count the certificate as equivalent to one year of manufacturing work experience. Enrolling in and completing the program does not guarantee employment, however.

Several community partners also are involved in helping to promote the ManuFirst Certification to area employers, to help recruit students or to provide services such as providing career assistance. Community partners include Economic Development Partnership, Lower Savannah Council of Governments, S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation, Aiken County Adult Education Center and Aiken County Public Schools.

“Having the employers’ buy in early on to say ‘yes, we want to hire graduates from this program’ is extremely important because then the program’s participants know they now have a pathway directly to these employers. No guarantee of a job, but they have a pathway that will help them get interviews and be able to get one-on-one time with these employers who are looking to fill open positions,” Simmons said.

The first program session will be held in February 2019. Applicants must be South Carolina residents who are at least 18 years old, be unemployed or underemployed, have a least a high school diploma or GED (documentation required) and be committed to completing the program.

Applicants also will be required to take the WorkKeys/WIN test and achieve a score of “silver” or higher.

Information sessions to learn more about the certificate program and to apply will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 11; Jan. 9, 2019; and Jan. 23, 2019, in the college’s amphitheater in the 700 Building.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Aiken Technical College to continue to serve the people of Aiken County,” ATC President Dr. Forest Mahan said. “It’s an opportunity for people who may be looking to improve their skills or find a job they may not have considered in the past to get real quick, very fast training that gets them into the pipeline to go to work for a really good wage-paying job.

“We’re fulfilling our mission. It’s important to have these partnerships because we are here for their purposes. We’re getting a lot of great feedback about what their needs are in the current job market.”

For more information about the information sessions, contact Gail Counts at 803-508-7369 or countsg@atc.edu.