As they look to the future, the 183 employees of Timken’s Tyger River Plant whose jobs will be phased out by the end of 2013 will be able to turn to the Union County Advanced Technology Center for educational and training services that will help them successfully compete in the job market.
In a statement released Aug. 2, The Timken Company announced that it was transferring the smaller bearings production lines at the Tyger River plant to other facilities in the Carolinas and overseas. The company stated that the Tyger River plant would instead focus on the production of thrust and large bore bearings greater than 24 inches in size. The announcement stated that the changes are designed to keep the Tyger River plant competitive for years to come.
Smaller bearings accounts for a third of the Tyger River plant’s production and the company stated that their transfer would result in the phasing out of 183 jobs or 37 percent of the facility’s current workforce of 465 employees. The jobs to be eliminated include 60 temporary positions which are scheduled to be phased out by the end of 2012. The other 123 jobs — 110 operative positions and 13 salaried — are scheduled be phased out by the of 2013.
In announcing the production line transfers and ensuing workforce reductions, the company stated that qualified employees at Tyger River would be offered positions at other Timken facilities. Also, the company stated that when the phasing out of the full-time positions gets underway in 2013, those employee will be given 60 days notice advance notice of their last day.
When that day arrives — or perhaps before — those Timken employees have the option of seeking training and educational opportunities at the Union County Advanced Technology Center that can help prepare them to find work in manufacturing, especially in Union County.
Site Coordinator Kathy Jo Lancaster said that the center is already working with the Union County Development Board and the SCWorks Union office to “identify educational and training options for Timken associates who will be impacted by the company’s recent announcement. Specifically, our goal is to provide educational coursework and training geared toward supporting the county manufacturing industries through programs and certifications such as Mechatronics, Production Associate, Machine Tool, Welding, and MSSC (Manufacturing Skill Standards Council) and NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) certifications.”
Lancaster said that the training programs the center offers are designed to provide both new and experienced workers with the skills they need to make them attractive as employees to companies in the increasingly high-tech manufacturing industry.
“Today’s manufacturing plants are highly technical and requires a highly skilled employee to run its processes,” Lancaster said. “It is our responsibility to provide training and retraining to workers/residents enabling them to successfully compete for employment in these industries. The Advanced Technology Center will continue to work with our partners and local employers as a means to provide funding for job training programs and services to assist Timken associates prepare for future employment opportunities.”
Without the training and the certifications the center provides, Lancaster said many companies will not even consider a job applicant.
“Even though they may have been working in an industry for 20 years and have a great deal of experience and skill, a person may lack the training and certification employers are looking for today and that can prevent them from getting a job they’d find very desirable,” Lancaster said. “Even with their 20 years of experience, a worker would need retraining and certification to get a company to even consider them. For example, Shaw Construction, which is in the nuclear construction industry, will not even talk to someone about a job if they don’t have NCCER certification.”
The Advanced Technology Center, which opened in 2009 and is jointly operated by Spartanburg Community College and USC Union, is sometimes thought of as an institution of higher learning for graduating high school students. While many of its students are recent high school graduates, Lancaster said that this is only part of what the center does.
“We not only provide education and training for students graduating from high school, we also provide these services to workers displaced by job layoffs and plant closings,” Lancaster said. “Some of our students are traditional students, students coming in from high school, but there’s also non-traditional students who do not come directly from high school and this includes displaced workers.”
Lancaster said approximately 50 percent of the center’s student body are non-traditional students including displaced workers who are seeking the job skills that can enable them to successfully compete for jobs in Union County’s growing, high-tech manufacturing sector.
“We provide two types of training here, the academic and the job training programs,” Lancaster said. “Both are geared toward helping students compete for those highly technical positions. Those are the positions companies like Belk, ESAB, Gestamp and now Gonvauto are looking to fill and they are looking for employees with the skills and certification they need for those positions.
“The MSSC certification that we offer, for example, is what employers are looking for when they meet with a potential employee about an entry-level position,” she said. “Those that have that MSSC certification are better positioned to get those jobs and the better wages that go with them.”
Lancaster added that Timken employees or anyone else interested in pursuing educational and training opportunities could possibly qualify for financial assistance through programs such as the federal Pell Grants, SC Lottery funds, and other types of financial aid.
The Union County Advanced Technology Center is located at 1401 Furman L. Fendley Highway (US 176), Union, and can be reached at 466-1060.