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Columbia Business Monthly

Calhoun County: Lean manufacturing training comes to Orangeburg-Calhoun Tech

Dec 07, 2018 11:11AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Richard Breen

When an economic development incentives package is created for a new or expanding company in South Carolina, there’s often a component related to job training. Calhoun County is no different.

“We’ve been fortunate to have some good economic development announcements over the past few years,” says Ted Felder, the county’s deputy administrator. “We recognize how important workforce development is to jobs in Calhoun County.”

Across South Carolina, job training programs often involve the local technical college. In Calhoun County’s case, it’s Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.

“We actively work with our Calhoun County industries: Devro Inc., DAK Americas, Thermo King, The Fitts Co., Starbucks, Zeus Industrial Products, and Hi-Tech,” says Sandra Moore, who heads corporate training and economic development for OCtech.

Devro, which produces casings for the food industry, operates a 210-worker facility along the Congaree River near U.S. Highway 176. The company is also working to boost the skills of current employees, according to Caren Taylor, human resources manager.

“Right now, we’re doing supervisory skills training for managers and supervisors, as well as team leaders and lead operators,” Taylor says of a current program with OCtech.

Specialized Training
Specialized training programs for industry are coordinated by readySC, a program run by the S.C. Technical College System’s Division of Economic Development. It can assist with recruiting and training. According to readySC’s website, requirements include: Projected jobs must be permanent, pay must represent a competitive wage for the area, the benefits package must include health insurance, and the number of jobs created must be sufficient for training to be cost-effective.

Those requirements are in line with what local economic developers ask for from industry.

“We make it very clear up front the big number for us is the amount of full-time jobs that are above the county average wage,” Felder says.

The Division of Economic Development also manages Apprenticeship Carolina.

“Through joint efforts with Apprenticeship Carolina, we are working with companies to customize training programs that are needed to build a highly skilled workforce,” Moore says. “Several registered apprenticeships have resulted from these efforts, including one youth apprenticeship.”

Job seekers have a means to get connected as well. S.C. Works is a statewide career center system with a satellite office in St. Matthews.

The centers offer services ranging from resume assistance to information on training opportunities. The services are provided through a partnership that includes the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce and local workforce development boards.

Also, much of OCtech’s general curriculum is geared toward developing skills that are in demand by employers. For example, there are associate’s degree programs for job areas such as industrial electronics technology, machine tool technology, network security, and nursing.

Certificate programs include computer-aided design, logistics, mammography, mechatronics, professional truck driving, sustainable agriculture, and welding. The school also has transfer programs with Clemson University for agriculture students seeking bachelor’s degrees.

OCtech recently began a certificate program in lean manufacturing for Calhoun County residents.

“This training introduces participants to manufacturing and prepares them for entry-level employment in a manufacturing facility,” Moore says. “It will include 52 hours of classroom training, OSHA 10-hour General Industry certification, and forklift training.”

Diverse Workforce Needs
The variety of career training opportunities reflects Calhoun County’s diversity.

“The upper part of our county has a lot of industrial development and in the lower part of the county there’s a lot of major farms,” Felder says.

Calhoun County has less than 20 miles of Interstate 26 frontage on the northeast side of the county, but makes the most of it, with several major employers clustered along the highway. The Starbucks roasting plant (which is celebrating 10 years in Calhoun County), The Fitts Co., Hi-Tech Specialty Fabrics, Southeast Frozen Foods, Thermo-King, and Zeus Industrial Products are all nearby.

It allows for the workforce to be bolstered by commuters. Calhoun County’s population of 14,704 is the third smallest in South Carolina.

“I’d say 85 percent of our workforce is from Orangeburg County and Calhoun County,” Devro’s Taylor says.

The adult, working-age (18-64) population is 8,566. As of mid-year, the county labor force was 6,797, with 6,504 employed and 293 unemployed, a 4.3 percent unemployment rate.

“It’s hard to find candidates, period, given the low unemployment rate,” Taylor says. “We would like for individuals to have manufacturing experience, but it’s not required.”

Moore thinks the apprenticeship programs can help.

“Our biggest effort here at the college is to register some apprenticeships at these places,” she says. “That would help them to grow their own workforce. We’re hoping the lean manufacturing certificate program will help as well.”