An eight-month program held at the Union County Advance Technology Center offers students career basics as well as employment opportunities after the course is completed.
The class is offered through the ACHIEVE (Academic Challenges Helping Individuals Expand Values and Education) program and is held every Thursday for an eight-month period. All students enrolled in the class have either earned their GED or are currently working on it.
The class began with a seven-week course called Smart Work Ethics where students participated in team building and intensive training in soft skills. They even created their own button pins to wear with their slogan being, “Forget the sky. There is no limit.”
From there, they began their NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) core curriculum training at Union County Advanced Technology Center through Spartanburg Community College. The course is instructed by Terrill Brown, a retired SCC instructor who is NCCER-certified in nine different crafts.
The course gives students an introduction to construction safety, construction math, using hand and power tools, layout work, blueprints, rigging, communication skills and employability skills.
“So many kids coming out of high school now don’t have a clue of what they want to do or where they want to go,” Brown said. “This gives them an introduction and lets them know whether they want to go into it or not. The good thing about it is it gives them all their basics as far as construction. We always start with our construction safety, then we go to our construction math. It is a good opportunity.”
The program schedule also includes tours to manufacturing companies and a tour of Spartanburg Community College.
When students have completed their core curriculum class, they will receive an NCCER core certification and can then expand their training and choose a particular field in which to pursue certification. Brown said the core certification itself, however, offers opportunity. He said he has agreements from several construction companies to offer interviews to students who have completed their core curriculum, primarily because they have learned construction safety and basics in measurements, blueprints and other areas of knowledge needed for an introductory-level construction position.
“They can start out as an apprentice making $12-$14 per hour,” Brown said. “A lot of these jobs go up to $23-$25 an hour when they get to a journeyman level.”
When the is class finished, students can opt to receive job search assistance, job placement, co-enrollment, OJT, etc. through SC Works Upstate.
On Thursday, students were learning to spot weld in the Union County Advanced Technology Center welding lab, and they also offered positive feedback about their experience thus far.
“What did I learn?” Lakeisha Clark asked. “What didn’t I learn?”
Clark said she enjoyed learning to tie different types of knots during her introduction to rigging. Another student, Rusty Hall, mentioned that he enjoyed learning the various hand signals used when flagging cranes.
“I look forward to coming to class every Thursday,” Clark added.
Union County Advanced Technology Center Interim Site Coordinator Kathy Jo Lancaster said that the center takes pride in these ACHIEVE program students.
“These students are exceptional,” Lancaster said. “They have inspired us each week in their commitment to learn entry level welding skills which will lead to further education and employment. Their participation in the ACHIEVE program has given them the opportunity to earn their GED with an array of training geared toward college readiness, work skills and community involvement. We are very proud of their accomplishments.”