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Former President Bill Clinton said he believes demand for high-level manufacturing training will continue to grow in the United States as the country competes in a global economy.
Clinton visited The Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Industrial Technologies (CAMIT) at Spartanburg Community College on Tuesday ahead of a campaign stop in Greenville for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Clinton emphasized the importance of training high school and college students in practical skills.
"I think it's the direction America ought to go," Clinton said. "A lot of people are getting their high school education here in preparation for college. We have known for 20 years that a huge percentage of people learn better in a practical environment. There is a massive need for advanced manufacturing."
Clinton said he recently spoke to a friend in Louisiana who told him there was a shortage there of skilled manufacturing workers. Those who receive high-level training in manufacturing can produce more, Clinton said.
Justin Brown of Spartanburg is studying robotic engineering at CAMIT. He showed Clinton a simulation on how to make sure robotic equipment functions properly on the factory floor. Brown said he was excited to show Clinton what he is training to do in the future.
"It was a great experience," Brown said about meeting Clinton. "It was a dream come true. I actually got to meet a former president."
Clinton paused to take selfies with some of the students and sign autographs. One student pulled out a $2 bill for Clinton to autograph. Clinton recalled a time when someone had handed him a $100 bill to autograph. Clinton said he asked the person if he planned to spend or keep the bill after he signed it. The person told him he would save it.
Henry Giles Jr., SCC president, explained to Clinton how CAMIT is helping to train workers for local companies. CAMIT houses the school's automated technology, electronics and engineering technology, industrial, machine tool technology, mechanical/electrical and mechatronics programs.
"We are so excited about him (Clinton) being here," Giles said. "This is the first time the college has had a president visit. He has been an asset to education through the years."
State Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, Jay Coffer, chair of the SCC manufacturing department, and Cheryl Cox, SCC senior vice president of academic affairs, toured the center with Clinton.
Mitchell said CAMIT Clinton's visit reaffirms the important role SCC has in training skilled workers. "He (Bill) applauded what he saw," Mitchell said.