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An airless tire, robots and race cars were just a few items used to motivate hundreds of local eighth-graders on Wednesday.
Spartanburg Community College (SCC) is hosting the second annual Upstate College and Career Showcase at its Tyger River Campus in Duncan this week.
The event, which started Wednesday and concludes today, aims to teach students about opportunities that are available to them after graduating high school.
It is a partnership between the South Carolina Department of Commerce, University of South Carolina Upstate, SCC, Upstate Regional Education Center Board, Upstate Workforce Investment Board.
Planners said they expected about 4,800 eighth grade students and 150 high school and college seniors from Spartanburg, Union and Cherokee Counties at the event.
“This is part of our workforce development plans,” said state Rep. Mike Forrester, R-Spartanburg, who serves as director of economic development for SCC. “It is about being proactive and trying to introduce (students) to careers that are available to them in hopes of getting them on the right path.”
Cherie Pressley, regional advisor for the S.C. Department of Commerce, said the showcase was sponsored by several of the Upstate’s largest employers.
Sponsors included BMW, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, Timken, Cooper Standard, Trelleborg, Spartanburg Water, Duke Energy, Kobelco, Toray, Gestamp, Lockhart Power, Broad River Electrical Cooperative, Gestamp, CPM Federal Credit Union, Advance America, Piedmont Natural Gas, Leigh Fibers, AFL, Haemonetics, the Spartanburg County Economic Futures Group and other organizations.
She said about 60 companies set up booths in a 40,000-square-foot warehouse bay that is part of SCC’s Center for Business and Entrepreneurial Development.
The showcase highlights the state’s National Manufacturing Day celebration on Friday and the statewide proclamation issued by Gov. Nikki Haley identifying Oct. 3 through 7 as Manufacturing Week in South Carolina, Pressley said.
“We are so excited about this,” she said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to recognize some of the great manufacturing operations we have in the Upstate and a way for us to connect students with companies that are looking for talented, motivated employees.”
Forrester said one of the challenges facing companies in the region is competition for qualified employees. He said there is a need for well-educated, well-trained workers, particularly in mechatronics, a field that combines electronics and mechanical engineering.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education will be important to the region’s future economic development efforts, Forrester said.
At the showcase, students were each given a “passport” that included a list of questions they had to ask company representatives as they toured the event hall. The students will use the information they gathered to complete assignments in the classroom.
Pressley said it is important for eighth graders to be exposed to potential careers as that is the year they will each have to develop an Individual Graduation Plan with help from parents or guardians and school guidance personnel.
Company officials said it is important for them to be involved in the process in order to attract the talent they need to be competitive.
“It’s an investment,” said Warren Snead, human resources manager for Cooper Standard. “Any company that has a long-term presence anywhere should be engaged in the education process… We are competing against the rest of the world. We need young people who are educated, motivated and committed to this area.”
Jakob Fisher, 18, of Spartanburg was a student at the Daniel Morgan Technology Center last year when he visited Cooper Standard’s local plant.
Snead said Fisher showed promise and enthusiasm, and the company decided to offer him a part-time internship while he was still in school.
On his 18th birthday, Cooper Standard offered Fisher a full-time internship and a full scholarship to study mechatronics at SCC.
“My brother showed me how to build stuff,” Fisher said. “I knew it was what I wanted to do… It was great to step out of the classroom and into the real world. I can’t say enough about the tech schools like Daniel Morgan. That’s where you’re really going to get your training.”
To view a short video about the showcase, visit: vimeo.com/181086930.