Monday marked the first time that all of the School District of Oconee County’s elementary school teachers visited and experienced various manufacturing facilities in Oconee County. Educators were able to see the facilities that some of their students’ parents work in, and also viewed the amazing products that are made right here in Oconee County.
The goal of this experience is to change some of the misconceptions surrounding manufacturing and increase awareness of the types of opportunities that exist for graduating students. “We are trying to redefine what it means to be successful for students graduating from high school,” stated Richard Blackwell, executive director of the Oconee Economic Alliance. “Attending a 4-year institution is not the only road to success. A student can graduate from high school, attend a technical college, and come out with a job in one of our manufacturing facilities making a healthy salary. ” Alternatively, there are many manufacturing facilities that will pay for their employees to continue their education through degree programs and/or certificates. It is possible for a high school graduate to go directly into a career with one of our local industries and pursue an advanced degree that is paid for by their employer.
The SDOC has been very supportive of this initiative. This is the second time this year that school district employees have been to the manufacturing facilities in the county. Earlier this year, a group of guidance counselors toured BorgWarner to see the production process for transfer cases made for Ford, Dodge, and Toyota 4×4 trucks. The school district has also shown support through the creation of the NOW program (Nurturing Oconee’s Workforce), a program designed to increase awareness and interest in the manufacturing industry. Students are given the opportunity to write resumes, participate in mock interviews, interact with business leadership, and tour various industries in the county. This program also opened the door for several students to participate in summer internships.
With the construction of the new Workforce Development Campus at the Oconee Industry and Technology Park, the OEA is striving to help promote our local industries and keep our homegrown talent here instead of moving away for a career. “Oconee doesn’t have a jobs problem,” says Blackwell. “We have a surplus of jobs available right now. If you graduate with a manufacturing-aligned certificate today, you could have a job tomorrow in Oconee County.” The Workforce Development Campus is seeking to provide just that. Students at this innovative new campus will have the opportunity to take high school classes in advanced manufacturing, walk across the parking lot to advance their education at Tri-County Technical College, and can then walk across the street to interview at an established BMW supplier. The possibilities are endless with one-of-a-kind campus, and we at the OEA are very excited to watch it grow.
Emily Hodge is an Economic Development Specialist for the Oconee Economic Alliance, which is a public-private nonprofit effort to accelerate job creation and capital investment, increase per capita income, diversify the local tax base and generate awareness of Oconee County as a business location. To learn more visit www.InvestOconeeSC.com.