Area manufacturers work alongside Greenville Tech apprentices to build workforce

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Acclaim Aerospace
Photo by Dove Light Photography

As Upstate South Carolina continues its rise in the global manufacturing market, industry-related professionals and local educators are making the most of the opportunity to create a better learning environment for college students while developing an unbreakable supply of local, skilled hands.

With recent additions including the Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) and the four-year baccalaureate program at Greenville Technical College, regional CEO’s are beginning to take advantage of the school’s efforts to meet industry needs.

Jason Premo, CEO at Acclaim Aerospace in Greenville, said his new startup company “sought out an incubator partnership with Greenville Tech’s CMI to identify potential students as future employees.”

The students are prototyping and testing new products and processes, leveraging the school’s CNC machines in a rental-style arrangement during available hours outside classroom time, he said. “The arrangement provided our company new product opportunities to gain customer approvals while in the process of securing a new factory as permanent home.”

Acclaim Aerospace was opened in October last year and recently moved into a 20,000 square foot facility off Pelham Road in Greenville as a Tier 2 supplier of machined components in the aviation, defense and space industries. The Upstate firm’s list of global clients includes Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Airbus and SpaceX, with work ranging from prototypes and high and low-mix volumes to contract manufacturing with inventory management programs.

As part of CMI and the two-year and new four-year program, Greenville Tech students can serve as an apprentice on a working manufacturing floor around the Upstate to not only gain exclusive knowledge from the marketplace, but to ensure a lasting relationship with industry executives and potential landing spot after graduation.

The Student Perspective

After learning how most metal products are made today, Will Baker, a Greenville Tech student and apprentice working at Acclaim Aerospace, said the complexities of parts going into products around the world inspired his career path.

While most of the components in the Upstate plant end up on airplanes, “some of what we make goes on rockets,” he said. “After getting into the program and learning about all the advancements in industry, I knew I’d found an interesting career to pursue while remaining on the cutting edge of technology.”

Currently, area firms are not only supporting Greenville Tech’s apprenticeship program by utilizing their students to build parts, they’re also buying from those who do.

Davin McRoberts, CEO at SCTool Corp, said the company is purchasing threaded adapters built at Acclaim Aerospace for shank drills they manufacture for the defense and commercial aerospace industries.

“We rely on (local employers) involvement to ensure we remain current in our curricula while meeting the training needs of local industry.” – Susan Gasque, Director of Greenville Tech’s Experiential Learning program

SCTool Corp manufactures and reconditions solid carbide cutting tools to meet the demands of high-speed machining.

Susan Gasque, Director of Greenville Technical College’s Experiential Learning program, said co-op, technical scholarship and apprenticeship “students are more likely to remain with their sponsoring firms after graduation rather than a new hire because of their history and investment from the company.

Employers can now identify students attaining the necessary skills and develop relationships with them while they are just beginning their careers, she said.  “More importantly, the program offers apprentice students ‘real world’ experience by taking part in engineering and machining actual components, while also learning the methods and procedures of the aerospace quality system.”

Other South Carolina companies like GE, Bosch, Michelin and BMW have partnered with Greenville Tech CMI within the two-year associate degree program, ranging from career days and job fairs for students, to full “scholars” work-study apprenticeship style programs with paid tuition.

“Involvement of our local employers is vital to Greenville Technical College,” Gasque said.

“We rely on their involvement to ensure we remain current in our curricula while meeting the training needs of local industry,” She continued. Employers can also assist the college in recruitment efforts by promoting career opportunities in the technical disciplines.

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