A robot and a working model of a community electrical system helped give some Sims Middle School student a look at the job market they will one day graduate into during Friday’s Career Day at the Union County Advanced Technology Center.
Since 2013, the eighth grade students of Randall “Chump” Hanvey’s Automation & Robotics Class at Sims Middle School have been attending Career Day at the UCATC to learn what kind of educational services the center offers. The purpose of Career Day is to help students decide on the career paths they would like to follow and the course of study they will undertake to prepare them for those careers.
“We’ve been doing this with Sims since 2013,” UCATC Site Coordinator Kathy Jo Lancaster said. “Eighth grade middle school students are at a point where they must identify a career cluster. By the time they enter the ninth grade they must identify with one of the sixteen career clusters.”
Those career clusters are:
• Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
• A/V Technology and Communications
• Architecture and Construction
• Business, Management and Administration
• Education and Training
• Government and Public Administration
• Health Science
• Hospitality and Tourism
• Human Services
• Information Technology
• Marketing, Sales and Service
• Public Safety and Security
• Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
• Transportation, Distribution and Logistics
While the students have 16 different clusters to choose from, Lancaster said that at UCATC the emphasis has been on the manufacturing cluster. She said this was in response to the ongoing growth of the manufacturing sector in Union County and beyond, growth that she said is expected to continue.
“Over the past year we have been focusing on manufacturing in our community, in our state, and on the national level,” Lancaster said. “This area is expected to grow and we need to prepare our young people to fill those jobs.”
That preparation involves encouraging student interest in the fields of study that Lancaster said students will have to master in order to take advantage of the growth of the manufacturing sector and the jobs it will create.“Middle school is a critical time to catch a student’s interest in science, technology, engineering, and math,” Lancaster said. “These areas are a direct connection manufacturing careers in the future.”
In response to this growth and projected growth of manufacturing both in Union County and beyond, this year’s Career Day not only gave students the opportunity to hear about the services offered by the UCATC, but also from local industries about what they do and what they have to offer.
“What we did different this year is we invited several local employers to participate — Lockhart Power, Carlisle Finishing, Vapor Apparel,” Lancaster said. “In my introduction to the students, I told them that Union County is very special, that there are products manufactured here and programs run here which are not performed anywhere else in the world.”
That uniqueness includes Lockhart Power’s heavy involvement in renewable energy; Carlisle Finishing’s contracts with the military to produce military apparel; and Vapor Apparel’s production of active wear which is sold at leading sports stores and online.
Friday’s Career Day included addresses by representatives of Lockhart Power, Carlisle Finishing, and Vapor Apparel to the students as a group. Next, the students were divided into groups of 15 who then toured the building to receive information from the UCATC staff and represenatives of the various programs offered by Spartanburg Community College. There was also a demonstration by Lockhart Power personnel of a working model of a community power system and a demonstration involving a robot presented by an educator from SCC.
Hanvey said that Career Day is about letting his students see that what they are learning is actually being used outside the classroom and outside school and why it is so important for them to focus on their studies.
“I wanted them to see that what they are learning is being used throughout the county,” Hanvey said. “Technology has changed the workplace so much. I wanted them to see what it takes to be successful in the job market. I wanted them to see the training and education that’s needed.”
Lancaster said that once they leave Sims for Union County High School, Hanvey’s students will continue their education at the Union County Career Center.
“These students will most likely enter the Career Center’s Mechatronics Class when they leave Sims and enter high school,” It’s important that they be ready. Mechatronics requires a great deal of math skills, critical thinking skills, and logical abilities.”
Lancaster added that Spartanburg Community College is working with the Union County School District to “roll out a Mechatronics early college program in 2017. Students would continue their ninth and tenth grade years at the Career Center’s Mechatronics Class. In the eleventh and twelfth grades they would come to the Advanced Technology Center to take courses here. By the time they graduated they would have almost an Associate’s Degree.”
For more information about the Union County Advanced Technology Center and the services it offers call 864-466-1060.