UNION COUNTY — What does the manufacturing industry have to offer the members of the Class of 2016 if they continue their education beyond high school?
Good, well-paying jobs that can become fulfilling careers in work environments that are not only increasingly high-tech but cleaner and safer than ever before, according to the manager of a local manufacturing plant.
The manufacturing industry and what it can offer the members of the Class of 2016 was part of a presentation made to the seniors at Union County High School on Tuesday, March 19. The main focus of the presentation was to introduce students to the Union County Community Scholarship Program which is designed to help high graduates in Union County continue their education after graduation. The program provides funding to help students get the first two year of their post-secondary education at USC Union or the Spartanburg Community College campus in Union County at no cost to the students.
The program is being offered by Union County, the Union County School District, USC Union, and Spartanburg Community College. Union County Supervisor Frank Hart told students that the goal of the program is see to it that all graduating seniors can continue their education and thus improve their future earning potential. Hart said that seniors who continue their education beyond high school can earn anywhere from $1 million to $3 million over the course of their lifetime than those who don’t.
Three million dollars is a lot of money, but where could a high school senior with a post-secondary education get a job, a career that would enable them to earn that kind of money?
One answer to that question is the manufacturing industry which, according to Timken Tyger River Plant Manager Bob Hart, is not only creating such jobs but is in need of a new generation of workers to fill them. Hart was among those who spoke during the March 19 presentation and in his address he emphasized the importance of getting a post-secondary education. He said that getting what he called “an advanced education degree” is the difference between getting a job that just “pays the bills” and getting a “good job” that is economically, intellectually and even spiritually fulfilling.
“Yes, you may be able to find a job with a high school degree, however earning an advanced degree is becoming more and more of a requirement in today’s economy, and these degrees are rapidly becoming a requirement to obtain what I call a ‘good job’, not just ‘a job’ that pays the bills,” Hart said. “A good job is something that challenges you intellectually, provides a healthy work life balance for you and your family, and makes you want to get up and go to work in the morning. There is nothing worse in life than spending most of your waking hours doing a job that is not fulfilling.”
Hart told the seniors that “believe it or not, good jobs exist today in our growing healthcare fields, they exist in manufacturing jobs here in Union County that are becoming more and more technical every day and I’m sure that Frank and other entrepreneurs will tell you that a strong education foundation beyond your high school degree is critical to running a successful business.”
A Timken associate for more than 30 years, Hart shared with students his insider’s knowledge of the state of manufacturing, its requirements, its challenges, and the opportunities it offers them.
“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 twenty years,” Hart said. “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 happening, Hart attributed it to the laws of supply and demand which he said are being shaped in South Carolina by the industrial growth is occurring in the state coupled with the demographic realities of its workforce.
“It is simply the result of basic supply principles due to more and more companies that are locating in South Carolina, while at the same time our existing workforce is aging, and younger people like you are are deciding not to into manufacturing,” Hart said. “In my plant today, sixty-two percent of the workforce is 50 years of age or older. Those 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 opportunity announced today.”
Hart pointed to the situation at Timken Tyger River Plant as an example of why a post-secondary education is increasingly a prerequisite and the “good job” opportunities it offers.
“At our Timken plant here in Union County, I can tell you that we still hire someone with a high school degree for lower skill level jobs,” Hart said. “But as technology continues to evolve, a two-year tech degree, or an college degree with some manufacturing experience will open doors to your future that you might not realize exist today.
“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 leverage this technology for the competitive edge needed in today’s global environment,” he 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.”
Continuing with the theme of gaining greater earning power by getting an advanced education degree, Hart discussed the financial rewards of working in manufacturing.
“Manufacturing jobs today offer much stronger pay for these advanced skill sets,” Hart said. “According to data from the National Association of Manufactures, almost twelve percent of our workforce in South Carolina is employed in manufacturing, and over the next decade nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed in the United States, and two million are expected to go under filled due to a gap in technical skills available to employers.
“In Tyger River, our average hourly pay ranges between $15-$26.40 per hour, while the average pay and benefits for all hourly associates averaged $60,000 last year compared to $41,000 for non-farm business,” he said. “Obviously, the higher paying jobs require advanced degrees, and for us that means the top pay for nineteen percent of our workforce is making $48,000 per year without overtime plus benefit costs on top of this. The top five percent of the hourly workforce is making $55,000 per year without overtime plus benefits, right here in Union County.”