Thoughts ancient in their origins, learning is making a comeback

Recruiting a skilled workforce has always been a challenge for companies, but a proven method that dates back centuries is gaining in importance as the need for highly skilled workers keep growing.

Apprenticeships date back at least to the Middle Ages in Europe, when professional guilds oversaw the way skills such as blacksmithing and building trades were taught to new generations. According to educators and a growing number of companies, this tradition is experiencing a rapid resurgence and is proving to be a very effective way for companies to secure a growing pool of skilled workers.

BMW Fellows Jude White and Ryan Rusche. Photo by Jay King

Cultivate your own talent

According to Jennifer Moorefield, associate vice president for economic development and business training at Greenville Technical College, learning are among the most effective methods for companies to develop a highly skilled workforce in areas such as advanced manufacturing.

The state’s technical and community colleges have decades of experience partnering with businesses to develop educational programs tailored to the training needs of the industry, she says. This is especially true in fields requiring a high degree of technical training in robotics and mechatronics, precision machine tools, electronic engineering and automotive technology, among others.

Apprenticeships tailored to the specific needs of a business help ensure a supply of essential workers. “Sponsoring an apprentice is a great way [for a company] to build the pipeline, ”says Moorefield.

In South Carolina: there are 37,282 apprentices in 2,668 occupations

Jennifer Little, director of career counseling services at Spartanburg Community College, says companies increasingly understand that apprenticeship programs are a very effective way to recruit “the best and the brightest” talent.

She adds that companies have also found that the investments they make in apprentices tend to result in loyal employees. The skills acquired by apprentices also tend to provide them with more employment options.

“Technicians coming out of these programs are in high demand,” says Little.

BMW plant in Spartanburg
Aerial images show the BMW plant in Spartanburg County. Photo provided.

BMW: a case study

Recognizing that the employees it trained to staff the company’s North American automotive manufacturing center in Greer in the mid-1990s would eventually retire, BMW Manufacturing launched its Scholars program in 2011 to develop a pool of new talents.

BMW Director of Talent and Training Programs Paul Sinanian said the company recognizes that the traditional method of simply hiring new workers from an existing talent pool would not be sufficient to meet the needs. of the company. From this recognition was born the Scholars program.

BMW primarily works with four regional technical colleges – Spartanburg Community College and Greenville, Tri-County, and Piedmont Technical Colleges – where students take full-time classes and apprenticeships at BMW for approximately 20 to 25 hours per week.

Alicia Hyder graduated from the program in 2019 and is now working at the Greer factory. She says the real world experience has been an invaluable part of her education.

“I enjoyed being able to do practical work while preparing for my degree,” she says.

Hyder has since received a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology management from USC-Upstate while working for BMW.

Sinanian says the company is looking to expand the Scholars program beyond high school to include high school students in the future, as the technical demands of advanced manufacturing processes continue to grow.

“Our job is to extend the pipeline outside the company,” says Sinanian. “Every opportunity to bring more to the pipeline, we explore. “

Paul Sinanian
BMW Director of Talent Programs and Training Paul Sinanian.

SC apprenticeships in figures

  • 37,282 apprentices in 2,668 trades
  • 1,193 registered apprenticeship programs and 278 youth apprenticeship programs
  • 20 pre-learning programs
  • Participating programs in the 16 technical colleges in the state

(The source: Caroline apprenticeship)

Some upstate businesses with registered apprenticeship programs

  • Michelin
  • Bosch
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina
  • Husqvarna
  • Renewable water resources (ReWa)
  • Aqua Seal manufacturing and roofing
  • Burke Pharmacy

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