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Nikasha N Dicks
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Federal grant enlists three SC colleges to increase access and placement in advanced manufacturing fields

Institutions that support excellence in workforce development love company. Accordingly, the U.S. Department of Labor has selected Piedmont Technical College (PTC), Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College (OCtech), and Aiken Technical College (Aiken Tech) to form a consortium to develop a virtual Workforce Innovation Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Nursing — two sectors the agency identified as priority workforce needs.

“This grant is a great illustration of the power of collaboration and regional partnerships among the technical college system,” PTC President Dr. Hope E. Rivers said. “Collectively, our colleges will have a huge impact on the communities we serve.”

“This collaboration further demonstrates our colleges’ commitment to the South Carolina Technical College System’s tenets of providing education that is affordable, accessible, and relevant,” said Aiken Tech President Dr. Forest Mahan. “This initiative will help open doors for residents in our communities and help to meet the growing workforce demand for two of the top sectors in our region.”

Key intended beneficiaries of the $4.9 million, four-year grant are new entrants in the workforce, underserved and marginalized community residents, as well as dislocated, unemployed, and incumbent workers.

“This initiative will expand existing credit curricula for continuing education, create and expand career pathways, and increase program participation in priority fields,” said Dr. Keli Fewox, PTC’s vice president for academic affairs. “Utilizing online and hybrid formats, it will provide accessible training for industry, K-12, and rural communities. Furthermore, it will create accelerated articulation pathways and career maps for advanced manufacturing and nursing professions.”

The wide-ranging initiative comes with numerous related objectives designed to improve job placement and upskill rates, increase formal apprenticeships and work-based opportunities, improve measures of equity among targeted rural populations, and more.

“In the current climate, we have learned that prospective and current employees, and employers alike, are looking for skills training as part of an overall educational experience,” OCtech President Dr. Walt Tobin said. “With the successful implementation of this grant, OCtech will create meaningful transitions from short-term to longer-term education pathways that put our citizens on the path to successful careers.”

In addition to equipment and simulation software, the grant supports new personnel to galvanize these resources into measurable results. These new positions include a project director, instructional designer, nursing instructor, and retention counselor.

“With this grant, we will be able to create mobile advanced manufacturing training labs to reach rural participants, leverage existing career ladders to expand access, and increase participation of under-represented groups in nursing programs,” Fewox added. “We look forward to working with our distinguished partners to maximize improvement, opportunity, and career outcomes for marginalized individuals.”

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