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Columbia Business Monthly

Midlands Technical College's BOOM Program Awarded Best Innovation Team In S.C.

Mar 01, 2019 10:51AM ● By Kathleen Maris

Photo: MTC President Rhames (left) and MTC Provost Dr. Barrie Kirk (right) accept the State Technical College System award for team innovation from S.C. Technical Education Association President Latesha McComas.

The South Carolina State Technical College System awarded Midlands Technical College’s Building Occupational Opportunities in the Midlands, or BOOM program, the best collaborative and innovative program at any of South Carolina’s technical colleges.

BOOM is a highly successful construction job-training program for high school students with disabilities. Working with local school districts and member companies of the Builders Industry Association of Central SC, MTC addressed the problem, collaborated with its partners, and developed an innovative pathway for disabled students to learn skills while still in high school and find employment with local homebuilders. By working with the local school districts, MTC Program Directors Vince Earls and Becky Garnett were able to create a career-training solution for these students.

“Our team met with partners in the industry and in our school districts,” said MTC President Ronald L. Rhames. “We recognized the need to come up with a solution to solve the skilled worker shortage in the Midlands construction industry. Another issue was the growing number of high school students who were on an educational track that would not earn them a high school diploma or a GED. Through the BOOM program, we responded to both challenges with a single solution.”

Once enrolling in MTC’s BOOM Program, high functioning high school students with disabilities received hands-on, real-world experience in the construction field, earned a 10-hour OSHA Construction Credential and a Certificate in Building Construction from MTC. BOOM has improved and expanded the delivery of educational services at MTC. It is defining new pathways for students to find employment and is helping to fulfill the college’s mission to fill critical workforce needs. Students gain self-esteem, believe that they can do the work, and prove they are capable of being valuable employees.

“The A. Wade Martin award is designed to recognize our true innovators,” said Dr. Tim Hardee, President of the S.C. Technical College System. “The work of the BOOM program team perfectly captures the spirit of the award. The team didn't see a challenge, but instead an opportunity to fulfill our mission in a creative and innovative way.”

Dr. Sherry Rivers, principal of Heyward Career and Technology Center, describes the program as “an awesome opportunity for our students.” She also believes BOOM’s success and recognition are paving the way for even more career choices for other students.

“We look forward to expanding our focus to other career fields as we prepare for another group of students in 2019,” Rivers said. “The BOOM program is truly preparing tomorrow’s professionals in a very innovative way!”

BOOM’s innovative approach to workforce development received an innovation grant from the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce that will allow each district to serve additional students in the future for a total of 15 students per district. Rhames said MTC is invested in this approach.

“Innovation is about firsts,” said Rhames. “BOOM was the first time Midlands Technical College created a training program specifically for high school students with disabilities. Innovation is also about thinking outside your own organization and leveraging the ideas and support of partnerships in the community. I invite others in the community to partner with MTC in helping these students.”

As Rhames hopes to continue providing top-notch college access to additional students, the current BOOM students are already a step ahead.

“I’m not letting my disabilities stop me from a productive future,” said one student. “Autism is a hard thing to live with, and so is being bi-polar. But as long as you manage it correctly, you can do almost anything. This is helping me find real-world things that I can do with my disability."  

BOOM also won the Program of the Year Award from the SC Division on Career Development and Transition and the 2018 Outstanding Continuing Education Cooperative Program by the SC Association for Higher Continuing Education (SCAHCE.)

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