COLUMBIA, S.C.—A state's infrastructure is one of the most important factors manufacturer's consider when deciding where to set up shop.
Infrastructure is not just freeways, railways, shipping, air and general transportation logistics. Having a strong education system also is critical.
South Carolina's technical college system is one of its biggest selling points. Two programs created through the system are integral in both training new employees and developing prospective talent.
ReadySC is dedicated to training work forces for companies looking to establish a presence in South Carolina, customizing a training program catered to each company at no cost. It was carved out by the state within its 16 technical colleges and has been in existence for more than 50 years, according to Susan Pretulak, vice president of economic development at the S.C. Technical College System.
Eight of the colleges offer a program called Mechatronics, which consists of 15 certificate programs and an associate's degree. The program was adapted when five schools sought to update the existing Industrial Maintenance and Technology program. Hope Rivers—vice president for academic and student affairs, S.C. Technical College System—said other technical colleges still offer the Industrial Maintenance and Technology program.
Mechatronics is growing. Rivers said in 2008, total enrollment in the degree and certificate programs was 95. In the fall of 2014, 423 students were enrolled.
“It speaks volumes to what's happening in South Carolina's manufacturing industry as a whole,” she said.
Michelin, Bridgestone Corp. and Continental A.G. have supported and taken advantage of these programs.
“Our philosophy is if a company will come here and invest its capital in South Carolina, we'll invest ours in our people and prepare them to be ready to work in their plant,” said Bobby Hitt, South Carolina's secretary of commerce. “It's been a very strong formula, and our neighboring states keep us on our toes.”
He estimates that in the last six years, the state has helped train about 5,000 tire employees through ReadySC.
“They locate people that want to go to work, and they then work closely with the company to develop a training program to develop these people,” said Will Williams, president and CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of South Carolina—which covers Aiken, Edgefield and Saluda Counties.
“ReadySC gives them a chance to gain some skills and knowledge, but gives the company a chance to evaluate these people in terms of their attendance, their attitude and their work ethic.”