UNION COUNTY — The willingness of local industry to participate in an apprenticeship program offered by Spartanburg Community College could determine how much of a $5 million federal grant to the SC Technical College System will be spent in Union County.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA) awarded the SC Technical College System a $5 million grant to expand apprenticeship in the state. This grant is part of the American Apprenticeship Initiative (AAI) and represents the federal government’s largest investment in apprenticeship with $100 million in grants awarded across the country.
The grants are designed to fund projects across diverse industries and occupations for which employers are using H-1B visa to hire foreign workers. The goal is to increase the use of apprenticeship through innovative and sustainable public-private partnerships and programs designed to scale apprenticeships.
The SC Technical College System’s grant — SC Apprenticeship Initiative — is designed to increase the number of manufacturing apprenticeships and lay the foundation for future scaling of new programs in professional and information services. The two primary goals for the SC Apprenticeship Initiative are to 1) increase registered apprentices in the state by 1,000 in the targeted high-growth, high-tech industries of manufacturing, professional and information services and 2) increase access to post-secondary training and credentials for target industries and underrepresented groups in sponsored apprenticeships, namely veterans, minorities and females.
Spartanburg Community College is part of the SC Technical College System and offers apprenticeship programs through its campuses in the Upstate including the Union County Advanced Technology Center. SCC President Henry Giles discussed the federal grant and how much of that grant SCC will receive and whether or not any of it will be used to fund apprenticeships in Union County.
“The grant is for $5 million and is to be used across the state,” Giles said Friday. “It is a five year grant and that means $1 million a year.
“In the past, our allocation for most funds for statewide use has been six to seven percent,” he said. “So we’re looking at getting $60,000-70,000 a year for the five years of the grant.”
The SC Apprenticeship Initiative will scale current innovations used to inform companies about apprenticeship programs, expand technical services in design and administration and fund post-secondary education and training for apprentices. Companies across the state will be able to apply for grants to offset training costs associated with their respective apprenticeship programs. Applications will be granted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The system’s 16 colleges across the state will serve as the providers of job-related education for the programs connected with the grant.
Giles said the first-come, first serve basis of the initiative means that the amount of funding SCC receives and the amount spent in a particular county like Union will be determined by the willingness of industries in those areas to participate and how quickly they apply.
“As I understand it they are going to have goals for apprenticeships around the state, so the sooner businesses apply for it the more likely it will be approved for them,” Giles said. “There is a great chance that funds will be there in Union County but it will be contingent upon the willingness of the companies there to participate.”
Giles added that while SCC’s allocation will likely be $60,000-70,000, the possibility exists that it could receive even more depending on the response of the industries in the counties it serves and the response or lack thereof in other counties.
“If we have a landslide number of businesses interested and no one in another county is interested, then our share could be bigger,” Giles said. “With it being on a first-come, first-serve basis it will depend on how quickly businesses here apply for it.”
Dr. Jimmie Williamson, president of the SC Technical College System, said the grant will help expand the apprenticeship program across the state and help industries in the state address their workforce needs.
“The SC Technical College System and its Apprenticeship Carolina program are dedicated to increasing the awareness and use of registered apprenticeships in South Carolina,” Williamson said. “We know from experience that apprenticeships can go a long way to bridging the skills gap that so many companies across our state face.
“This substantial grant from DOLETA will help us to significantly expand apprenticeship in South Carolina,” he said. “It will assist companies across our state in meeting their workforce needs through registered apprenticeship programs. At the same time, it will be making a post-secondary education more accessible for the citizens of South Carolina while enhancing their skills set and earning them a nationally-recognized credential.”
The press release states that an apprenticeship is “a time-tested method of employee development that combines supervised on-the-job learning and job-related education. A program ‘registered’ with DOLETA shows an employer’s visible commitment to developing a high-quality workforce that meets nationally recognized training standards. Registered apprenticeship programs also enable employees to receive incremental wage increases as they demonstrate new competencies throughout the training program.
Giles pointed out that the apprenticeship program helps students get their education while receiving the training that could lead to a job while also helping industries ensure their future by developing trained, skilled and experienced workers.
“We would love to have a number of companies there take control of their future by building their workforce,” Giles said. “Apprenticeships allow you to be proactive as a company takes someone in who will be learning academic skills while getting hands on experience. While there is no contract or guarantee of a job, the goal is that at the end of two years the apprentice has developed the needed skills, experience and understanding and the company has developed a potentially long-term employee that it would be willing to offer a job to.”
Giles said that through the apprenticeship program, the funding allocated to an industry for an apprentice is divided between paying for the apprentice’s education and paying for the salary they earn while working part-time for the participating industry.
Industries in Union County interested in participating in the apprenticeship program should contact either Union County Advanced Technology Center Site Coordinator Kathy Jo Lancaster at 864-466-1060 or Spartanburg Community College Dean of Continuing Education Robert Leslie at 864-592-4910.
SC Technical College System
Comprised of 16 colleges located strategically across the state and two internationally-renowned statewide programs: readySC™ and Apprenticeship Carolina™, the SC Technical College System is dedicated to furthering economic and workforce development in South Carolina. As the state’s largest higher education system, the SC Technical System serves more than a quarter million South Carolinians each year and educates more of our state’s undergraduates than all the other public higher education institutions combined. Dedicated to making a quality higher education both accessible and affordable, the System plays a key role in educating and training South Carolina’s workforce for the in-demand, high-skilled jobs of today and tomorrow. In addition, the System’s internationally-recognized statewide programs — readySC and Apprenticeship Carolina — work to attract new companies to the state as well as provide comprehensive workforce solutions to ensure they stay and grow here. By making a quality technical college education accessible, affordable and relevant to the people of South Carolina, the SC Technical College System is preparing a work-ready workforce for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.