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Youth apprenticeships help fill need for skilled workforce

Manufacturing
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There are 196 companies in South Carolina with registered youth apprenticeship programs. About 20 of those are in the Upstate. And 36 counties in the state have a registered youth apprenticeship program, according to Amanda Richardson, with Apprenticeship Carolina.

To explain and highlight the value of apprenticeships, both adult and youth programs, representatives from industry, education and the Apprenticeship Carolina program recently came together for a youth apprenticeship accelerator event presented by Apprenticeship Carolina and GSA Business Report.

“We got into youth apprenticeships because of company interest,” Richardson said. “While companies had been working with adult programs for a long time, they saw the need to enter into high schools, to get their hands on those students earlier in the process.”

Richardson, who is an apprenticeship consultant for the Piedmont Technical College and Spartanburg Technical College regions, said the biggest difference between a youth program and adult program “is simply the age of the apprentice.”

“The youth program, just like adult program, combines the relevant on-the-job training with a more formalized education. All of this is done earning a paycheck and credentials,” she said.

Duke Moses, manager, Benteler Academy, Benteler Automotive Division in Duncan, said youth apprentices are new to his company, and that it’s only been in the past year that Benteler really got into using youth apprentices.

“It’s been a dream of mine for a long time – for high school students to be able to work in manufacturing. It took a great deal, not only from the interactions with the high schools and vocational centers, but from the company standpoint, to really get away from that stigma or fear of bringing someone into a facility who is under the age of 18,” he said.

Moses said apprentices are new to North America for Benteler but they are not new to the company.

“We have a large facility in Germany where we run about 750 apprentices annually,” he said. “These are high school kids starting at age 15. We wanted to bring that model to our facilities here in North America.”

Benteler in Duncan currently has three apprentices, Moses said, and the company plans to expand on that. He said Benteler has one junior apprentice. “He’s the first one in Benteler – not only here locally but through our nine automotive plants throughout North America. I have many facilities across the country now that are looking to do the same thing that we’re doing here in South Carolina.”

Apprenticeships can be registered in most any industry, according to Carla Whitlock, senior apprenticeship consultant with Apprenticeship Carolina. Trip Chalk, owner of Private Property restaurant in Lexington, uses apprentices in culinary arts. He said he started with four youth apprentices about three years ago.

“Since then we’ve had four finish a food service professional program. We have three active in that now and we have four continuing on to a second apprenticeship program, which is more a of a food management program,” he said.

Apprenticeship Carolina is a division of the state’s technical college system. Rusty Denning, associate vice president for economic development and continuing education at Piedmont Technical College, said the biggest industries for apprenticeship programs through his school have been in industrial and engineering programs.

“For us, some of our automotive supplier companies have been our biggest proponents and have actually been some of our biggest users of the apprenticeship program,” he said.

In developing the youth apprenticeship program, high schools and career centers have been brought into the fold.

Theresa Perry serves as primary contact between business and industry and apprenticeship programs at Daniel Morgan Career Center in Spartanburg. She said typically the first step in placing a youth apprentice is having an instructor make the recommendation.

At that point I will use my vetting system to make sure the student is appropriate for the placement. I’m going to be looking at the student’s attendance and discipline records. I will also talk to them about transportation,” she said.

Perry also takes a student’s extracurricular activities into account.

“Sometimes we will have a great candidate, but if they are on a sports team, and they need to get back to the high school by a certain time, then it’s probably not going to be worth the employer’s time to let them come out and work for an hour or hour and a half,” she said. “So, we have to look at the whole picture to see if the student is a good fit.”

This story originally appeared in the April 2, 2018, print edition of GSA Business Report.

Reach Teresa Cutlip at 864-720-1223.

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