UNION COUNTY — The Union County Community Scholarship Program represents a great opportunity for not only the seniors of Union County High School but for Union County as a whole according to Timken Tyger River Plant Manager Bob Hart.
The members of the UCHS Class of 2016 gathered in the school’s auditorium Tuesday morning for a presentation on the Union County Community Scholarship Program. The program is designed to enable graduating seniors in Union County to continue their education after high school at either USC Union or at the local campus of Spartanburg Community College. It will enable the graduating seniors to get the first two years of their post-secondary education at no cost to them.
Among those addressing the students was Timken Tyger River Plant Manager Bob Hart who began by applauding Union County, the Union County School District, USC Union, and Spartanburg Community College for establishing the scholarship program. Hart told the students the program is a “wonderful opportunity” being made available to each of them by the county, the school district, USC Union, and SCC. He urged the students to take advantage of the program to get the education they need to help them as they make decisions about their future.
“This program represents a phenomenal opportunity for everyone in Union County, and it is a very unique opportunity for the students in this auditorium today to potentially advance their education debt free,” Hart said. “This program emphasizes the ever increasing important of education in our economy today, and provides a unique financial opportunity to the students in Union County as you make decisions on a future career path and educational needs to accomplish that goal.”
Hart pointed out that the making those decisions begins before graduation from high school.
“Those career and educational decisions can be scary at times, but they are very important long-term decisions each you have to make, so please challenge yourself and don’t take the easy path,” Hart said. “When I was your age trying to make this decision, I was fortunate in that I knew I wanted to be an engineer through work with family and friends. I also understood that advanced education was necessary to achieve that goal, and I worked very hard to achieve good grades while in high school, and this was something that did not come easily for me. This hard work eventually provided me with the opportunity to enter a good engineering college and eventually achieve my career goal of becoming an engineer.”
Not all young adults, however, come to that understanding as early as Hart did, and in some cases those that do lack the means to advance their education as he did. Hart told the students that the scholarship program can help them come to such an understanding while helping them pursue a post-secondary education.
“The importance of a good education and grades while in high school is something not all young adults realize how important they are until it is too late,” Hart said. “Or sometimes a student may be in a situation where they cannot afford to go to college or a tech school even with good grades, which is what makes this program so great, it challenges you to earn the grade and achieve that education debt free.”
Even when a young adult gets into college they can still make mistakes as Hart said he did. They were mistakes, however, that he said he learned from. He said the experience convinced him of the importance of getting a college degree which, in his case, launched him on a career with Timken that is now in its fourth decade.
“As a young man in my sophomore years of college, I decided to drop out of school and go into business for myself,” Hart said. “Initially this disappointed my parents, especially my father who was a college professor, but I was young and began to think of college as a waste of time and I wanted to become an entrepreneur with little experience or education.
“After about a year, I came to the realization of how difficult it can be running your own business without an education, especially during a recession, and I went back to school to get my engineering degree,” he said. “I have never regretted either of these decisions as I learned a lot about life through these experiences; however, I am convinced that the college degree allowed me to land a job with a great manufacturing company and began what is now almost a 33-year career with The Timken Company working in many locations in the U.S. and abroad.”
Hart told the students that the reason he was telling them this story was to illustrate how important it is for them to get a post-secondary education.
“The reason I am telling you this story is to emphasize the importance of obtaining an advanced education degree in the world today,” Hart said. “From a manufacturing standpoint, I can tell you that the recent evolution of technical skills needed in our workplaces and the quality of the work environment in our plants has improved dramatically over the past 20 years. These technical skill sets however are becoming more and more difficult for employers to find, while the demand for those skill sets continues to grow even stronger in the future.”
As for why that is, Hart said “it is simply the result of basic supply and demand principals due to more and more companies that are locating into South Carolina, while at the same time our existing workforce is aging, and younger people like you are deciding not to go into manufacturing. In my plant today, 62 percent of the workforce is 50 years of age or older. These demographics of an aging workforce is one of the biggest challenges to manufacturing today in South Carolina, and to our nation, while it also provides a wonderful opportunity to your generation when combined with this phenomenal educational opportunity announced today.”
While high graduates are still hired for some of the lower-skilled jobs at the Timken Tyger River Plant, Hart told the students that the ongoing evolution of technology means that having a two-year degree or a college degree, combined with some manufacturing experience, will open doors for them in the future they might not know exist.
“You see, for manufacturing to be successful today in Union County, we need to employ associates that understand this ever advancing technology through educational programs such as mechatronics, and hire those associates that can leverage this technology for the competitive edge needed in today’s global environment,” Hart said. “We also need associates that can work well in teams and can analyze and solve problems in this team environment, while also being able to communicate well with others. All these skills can be developed if you are willing to further your education, and this scholarship program provides the unique opportunity to do that while also graduating debt free.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090 or [email protected]