Piedmont Technical College Helps Workers, Industry Sharpen Skills through Apprenticeships

While the term sounds like something from centuries gone by, apprenticeships are a modern way to develop skills needed in today’s economy, as Piedmont Technical College students are finding out.

PTC is partnering with local industry on several new programs, continuing a mission of workforce development that goes back to the very beginning of the SC Technical College System.

“Each program can be customizable for the company,” said Rusty Denning, associate vice president for economic development and continuing education. “It allows full-time or part-time employees to acquire job-related education that will create opportunities now and in the future.”

These apprenticeships are employer-sponsored training programs that have been registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA) as part of a $5 million grant awarded the SC Technical College System in 2015 to expand apprenticeship in the state.

“We have partnered with several companies to help them create a curriculum for their apprentices,” Denning said.

Piedmont Tech partners with 38 companies on apprenticeships, including some with multiple programs. There are 249 students involved across 49 apprenticeship programs. Some of the most recent programs include: Mechatronics with ZF Transmissions and Prysmian Group; CNC with Alupress; and Supervisory training with SPF North America and Velux America.

“We’ve been working with these companies since last fall,” Denning said. “Several of those companies began classes in January.”

Together, Velux manufacturing and logistics organizations have 29 employees involved in apprenticeship programs at PTC.

“As the world leader in roof windows and skylights, Velux depends on the contributions of a highly skilled team,” said Keith Polatty, director of human resources at Velux. “In turn, we utilize our partnership with Piedmont Technical College to assist in providing workers with crucial skills through apprenticeship programs.”

Apprenticeships often focus on skills needed for hard-to-fill jobs such as maintenance technicians and machine tool operators.

“Apprenticeships allow employers an opportunity to establish a ‘grow your own’ means of sustaining a workforce,” said Carla Whitlock, senior apprenticeship consultant in the S.C. Technical College System’s Division of Economic Development and Workforce Competitiveness. Apprenticeship Carolina consultants help guide companies through the process. “With the support of Piedmont Technical College’s educational programs and their willingness to be flexible to meet employers’ needs, apprenticeships have thrived across the seven-county region.”

In January, PTC was one of four technical colleges sharing $400,000 in additional grants from the State Workforce Development Board to implement more apprenticeship opportunities focused on priority populations such as youths, individuals with disabilities and those with background issues.

“We can help everyone, it’s just a matter of getting you on the right pathway,” Denning said.

Scholarship funds remain available for local employers. Apprenticeships that are registered with DOLETA are part of South Carolina’s overall strategy for maintaining a skilled workforce that meets the needs of existing industry as well as businesses seeking to locate here.

“The value of apprenticeships as a workforce development tool is immeasurable,” said Elisabeth Kovacs, deputy director for workforce development at the S.C. Department of Commerce. “Apprenticeships, whether youth or adult, serve a two-fold purpose in that they prepare individuals with the necessary education and on-the-job training skills and credentials. Upon successful completion of an apprenticeship program, individuals have the necessary skills for employment and to meet the needs of businesses immediately.”

Apprenticeship Carolina currently counts 6,399 active apprentices in South Carolina, with more than 120 being added each month. The University of Pennsylvania estimates 300,000 workers serve in apprenticeships nationwide.

For more information on the apprenticeship program opportunities, contact Denning at (864) 941-8417 or denning.r@ptc.edu