For the second year in a row, a grant has provided eight high school students with fundamental training which could lead to numerous industrial careers.
Union County High School — in collaboration with Spartanburg Community College — was awarded a high school education program grant through AdvanceSC for the 2011-2012 academic year. The grant provides training at the Union County Advanced Technology Center (UCATC) through which high school students are provided with an opportunity to acquire industrial welding skills needed to compete for employment in high-tech industries.
Site coordinator Kathy Lancaster said the goal is to transition students from high school to SCC and eventually the workplace.
Two basic welding courses — Welding 106 in the fall and Welding 113 in the spring — are held in the UCATC on-site welding lab, and AdvanceSC funds are currently being used to pay tuition, fees and material expenses for the eight high school students who are enrolled in the dual enrollment program offered by SCC. Two additional students are also enrolled in the class, both of whom are paying their own costs.
Joe Richards — head of the SCC welding department — said he came through the same type of program at SCC more than 30 years ago. Richards compared welding to a tree trunk, explaining that opportunities can branch in many directions after one acquires a fundamental welding skill set. He also pointed out that SCC has approximately 160 welding students at its three campuses, and he said the high school students are some of the most enthusiastic.
“It puts them in an adult environment and gives them a chance to shine on their own,” Richards said. “They realize it won’t be easy to make it without training.”
The instructor of the courses held at UCATC is Pacolet native Jason Pace, a former student of Richards’.
“I can’t say enough good things about them,” Pace said about his students. “They are really hard workers and they’re also quick learners.”
Several of the students made positive comments regarding their class. High school student Chris Duncan said he plans to continue on his career path through welding courses at SCC after this semester. Adult student George Jeter said she enrolled in the class with a hobby in mind.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a second career,” she said, adding that she plans to pursue artistic welding endeavors.
Other students are learning what their personal preferences are when it comes to their tools. Katie Adams said she prefers a larger rod with a greater deposit rate.
“It sticks worse, but it comes out a smoother weld, I think,” she said.
Adams also said the classes are teaching her patience.
The program will assist industrial construction companies located in and near Union County in meeting their entry-level workforce needs. Instructors will monitor the students’ progress, and career counseling will be available. Richards said with the arrival of the ESAB Welding and Cutting Products facility in Union and ongoing recruitment of similar companies, current students are coming along during a time in which there is a need for welders. He also said some of his former students are currently making $70,000-$80,000 per year.
AdvanceSC was established by Duke Energy in 2004 to support communities in Duke Energy’s South Carolina service area through grants for public assistance and economic development programs. The goal of the AdvanceSC education program is to address funding challenges for the high school, technical college and university systems in efforts to be key assets and leveraging tools in the state’s economic development plan.
For more information about programs offered at the Union County Advanced Technology Center, call (864) 466-1060.