Advanced manufacturing management degree will benefit industry, region, and workers

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By Dr. Brendan B. Kelly, chancellor, University of South Carolina Upstate

Each region of the United States has a unique set of talent needs, and the Upstate of South Carolina is no exception. A critical contribution to matching talent with opportunities is the lynchpin in the relationship between higher education and industry partners.

As a public, regional comprehensive university, the University of South Carolina Upstate (USC Upstate) is, by design, an institution that maintains the mission of ensuring that it feeds opportunity, promise, and partnership in the Upstate of South Carolina. We are proud to serve as an important regional partner. USC Upstate has an annual economic impact of more than half a billion dollars and boasts the highest percentage of graduates who continue to live and work in South Carolina among peer institutions in the state.

We are working to continue to position the institution to be responsive to the needs of industry. For example, highly skilled employees equipped with higher education credentials are necessary to manage the automated and technology-based manufacturing that are key components to advanced manufacturing in this region. USC Upstate is providing manufacturing professionals seeking a pathway to professional advancement with career-relevant academic programs and maintaining close relationships with our industry partners.

Recently, we launched a new Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Advanced Manufacturing Management (AMM). This unique 2+2 degree is for students who have earned their Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees in mechatronics, a multidisciplinary field that combines electronics and mechanical engineering. In the automotive industry, mechatronics, a dynamic field that blends mechanical knowledge with electronics, information technology, and robotics, is essential to modern manufacturing.

The development of the two-year baccalaureate Advanced Manufacturing Management program is a cooperative effort among USC Upstate, technical colleges in the Upstate, industry partners such as BMW Manufacturing, and other manufacturers. The program is offered through USC Upstate’s Division of Natural Science and Engineering and prepares graduates to assume organizational leadership roles, communicate with all levels of an organization, and solve complex problems that combine technical and nontechnical factors, such as economics. Our curriculum includes 21 hours of major courses at USC Upstate, including manufacturing leadership I and II, manufacturing work practices, manufacturing quality, manufacturing project management, operational excellence, and a senior seminar, which is similar to a thesis course.

In the last three years, technical colleges collaborating with USC Upstate have awarded more than 200 AAS degrees in mechatronics. According to the Upstate SC Alliance in Greenville, more than 106,000 people across the region work in the manufacturing sector, an area that sees steady growth while unemployment continues to remain relatively low.

Given these facts, a rather large pool of candidates will benefit greatly from the USC Upstate degree, as it enables them to develop solid leadership skills and move into supervisory roles with job titles such as manufacturing section leader, manufacturing section manager, or team leader. Additionally, with a bachelor’s degree in hand, these manufacturing workers can pursue lucrative careers that will earn them higher wages and afford greater opportunities for advancement throughout their careers. Today’s manufacturing sector is an innovative, technology-intensive industry that demands a qualified workforce and enhanced talent.

USC Upstate’s Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Advanced Manufacturing Management will help Spartanburg County reach its 40/30 Challenge goal to have 40 percent of the county’s population age 25 and older earn a baccalaureate degree by the year 2030. Together, USC Upstate with area technical colleges and globally recognized manufacturers will benefit not only Upstate residents and manufacturing associates but also the state’s efforts to attract new industry and bolster economic development.

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