Workforce Immersion Grant Puts Educators on the ‘Factory Floor’

Piedmont Technical College (PTC) is the lead organization in a multi-agency partnership to place local school teachers and counselors on the archetypal “factory floor” of participating technology-driven businesses in the region to the empower participating educators to fully inform students, through their firsthand experience, about entry-level positions in growing industries such as advanced manufacturing, biotechnology and computer technology. 

The initiative has been made possible by a $15,000 Workforce Immersion Experiences for Educators grant from the SC Department of Commerce Office of Innovation. Participating companies are matching this commitment one-to-one, which brings the grant’s total value to $30,000. 

“This project was inspired by a pilot program in which educators were brought into a selected workplace for a summer employment experience,” explained Rusty Denning, associate vice president for economic development and continuing education at PTC. “Those educators, in turn, shared their firsthand knowledge with students through lesson plans and career counseling. The participating company ultimately reported marked increases in the quality and quantity of apprentices applying with the company after graduation. In fact, that project was nominated for a SC Workforce Innovation Award.”

To begin this year, the project will place educators into “summer externships” of 30 hours over four to five weeks performing meaningful work on an industry site between June and mid-July. The educators will be paid a $900 stipend for their participation, as well as valuable recertification credits. The educators are expected to develop and present lesson plans that incorporate industry career education into their instruction and counseling activities.

The partners are in the process of identifying the first educator cohort for the project, with orientation to begin in May, followed by the externship experience. At the conclusion of the project, a final report will be submitted to the Office of Innovation. 
To date, committed industries include Sage Automotive Interiors, MacLean Power Systems, Lonza, Norbord South Carolina and CeramTec North America. 

“Our goal is to continue the Workforce Immersion program long after the completion of the grant period,” Denning said. “Our hope is that the program can be sustained through ongoing local company support.”
For more information, please visit