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Apprenticeships meet need for skilled workers

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With the number of job seekers at historic lows, employers who once could harvest a room full of workers by hanging a sign are carefully cultivating potential employees one person at a time. Milliken recently plucked up three more through its apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeship Carolina, a division of the South Carolina Technical College System, addresses the skilled worker shortage by connecting employers with technical college students in a registered apprenticeship program. Registered apprenticeship provides employers with opportunities to grow their own workforce.

Kenny Parker, technical workforce manager at Milliken & Co., introduces the apprentices at a recent signing event. The students who signed apprenticeship commitments to Milliken & Co. were, from left, Johnny Deal, Andrew Green and Sam Mickel. (Photo/Teresa Cutlip)“Throughout the Apprenticeship Carolina history, we have worked with well over 1,000 companies here in South Carolina across all industries who have registered apprenticeship programs, and we’re very proud of that,” said Carla Whitlock, senior apprenticeship consultant, during an apprentice signing event recently at Milliken & Co. in Spartanburg. “And here in the Upstate, the majority of our programs are manufacturing oriented.”

Three students signed commitments to Milliken through the Apprenticeship Carolina program. They were:

  • Johnny Deal, who attends Spartanburg Community College and works at Milliken’s Limestone plant in Gaffney
  • Andrew Green, who attends Spartanburg Community College and works at Milliken’s Magnolia plant in Blacksburg
  • Sam Mickel, who attends Tri-County Technical College and works at Milliken’s Cushman plant in Williamston

“I wanted to take part in Milliken’s apprenticeship program because I wanted to get a head start on my career and gain experience,” Mickel said. “I heard a lot of great things about Milliken, like how seriously they take workplace safety.”

Each apprentice is working toward an associate degree related to industrial maintenance and working part-time for Milliken.

“I just really want to stress the importance of apprenticeship at Milliken. This is a new initiative here,” said Kenny Parker, technical workforce manager at Milliken. “This is a great opportunity for us to attract top talent. The signees had options outside of Milliken. They could have signed with any company because the skills they are learning right now in school are in high demand.”

There are 1,009 apprenticeship programs in the state, according to the Apprenticeship Carolina website. All 16 technical colleges in the state participate and all 46 counties are represented.

“We have more than 32,000 South Carolinians who have either completed a registered apprenticeship program or are in the middle of completing an apprenticeship program,” Whitlock said. “That is very exciting, because upon completion they will receive a credential from the U.S. Department of Labor and they also receive credentials in their particular occupations.”

Apprenticeship consultants are available, at no charge to employers, to guide companies through the registered apprenticeship development process from initial information to full recognition in the national Registered Apprenticeship System.

Reach Teresa Cutlip at 864-720-1223.

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