Students, graduates well-positioned to find manufacturing jobs

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By David Clayton, executive director, Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation

There is nothing like the sound of shattering glass and the thunder of 80 pounds of falling timber to wake you in the middle of the night. It wasn’t a burglar or a raging storm that startled me recently, but the crash of a 9-foot, fully decorated Fraser fir in our living room. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but we can all learn a lesson from my “first-world” disaster: Don’t decorate only on one side of the tree.

Even engineers can forget the basic principle of balance. As we approach the end of the year, this is a great reminder to focus on balance in our lives. Enjoy this time with friends and family, carve out opportunities for hobbies or interests, and come back to work or school ready for a prosperous 2018.

With the holidays approaching, it’s also time to take stock and assess our progress over the year. The skyline full of cranes downtown and busy shopping districts across the region affirm that the economy is booming. My colleagues across the manufacturing industry, with few exceptions, say that 2017 has been a great year. While this is good news for business owners and employees, it’s great news for graduates.

Recently, Greenville Technical College hosted a Career Expo at the Center for Manufacturing Innovation. Dozens of employers talked to students and graduates of the college’s advanced manufacturing programs. Data point to a nearly 4 percent increase in the average manufacturing wage in Greenville County, and demand for new graduates and experienced professionals is strong. At CMI, we’ve seen a 10 percent growth in enrollment and have been busy starting new academic programs and building on industry partnerships to further enhance the classroom experience.

The season is also a time for gratitude, when we reflect on our blessings, family and friends, health, and well-being. On the last Wednesday of every month, I host a tour for interested community members (go to tours.cmigreenville.com to join one). During these tours, I often hear this comment: “I never thought about how things are made.” In this time of thankfulness, we should pause to consider the men and women (and elves!) producing all the gifts we exchange.

Many of these folks could be your South Carolina neighbors. Maybe the holidays bring you a Confluence kayak, a set of Michelin Super Sport tires, an Element TV, or a Husqvarna lawnmower. A lucky few may enjoy a new BMW X-series or Honda ATV this year. For breakfast, you might have a toasted waffle from U.S. Waffle Co. and for lunch, a Duke Foods pimento cheese sandwich. These are all products made right here in South Carolina by our hardworking neighbors.

South Carolina employees are known around the country for their work ethic, focus on quality, and dedication to making the world’s best products. Let’s take time to be thankful for these professionals and consider purchasing more South Carolina-made products in the future.

As we look to 2018, the new year is a time for optimism and seizing opportunities. Announced expansions at Bosch Automotive, Bosch Rexroth, AVX, Mapal, Kloeckner Metals, Itron, Electrolux, Medtronic, JSI Store Fixtures, Gestamp, and many other Upstate manufacturers point to a vibrant regional economy. This growth indicates optimism in the U.S. manufacturing sector and brighter prospects for manufacturing employees and graduates of programs at CMI.

In an effort to make these employment opportunities more available to Upstate students, Greenville Technical College is launching an Advanced Manufacturing Academy at CMI in partnership with Greenville County Schools next fall. With financial support from Bosch Rexroth, this program will be available to Greenville County high school seniors, offering a series of interesting classes and a jumpstart on college coursework. Over the course of a year, students will earn college credit toward an advanced manufacturing associate degree while working with cutting-edge technologies, such as robotics and automation, 3-D printing, CNC machining, and much more. Students can learn more about this opportunity from their high school guidance and career counselors.

From all of us at Greenville Technical College and the Center for Manufacturing Innovation, we wish you happy holidays and a wonderful year ahead — and sincere wishes that your Christmas trees remain upright!

David Clayton is the executive director at Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation. An engineer, David formerly served as research director for the South Carolina Department of Commerce.

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