BMW Scholars Supervisor Eugene Grant, center, gives instruction to scholars Joel Pridmore, left, and Kendra Rollins, right. (Photo provided by BMW Manufacturing)
A top BMW Manufacturing apprenticeship programs is expanding.
BMW Manufacturing Co. in Spartanburg County has offered the BMW Scholars program, an apprenticeship program that educates and trains students to work in the highly-technical environment of advanced manufacturing, since 2011. The company announced on Wednesday that it will expand the number of apprentices in its BMW Scholars program to 200, doubling the size of the program.
Along with the increase, BMW will add Piedmont Technical College in Greenwood as its fourth education partner, said Steve Wilson, a BMW Manufacturing spokesman.
“There’s a high demand for these type of very skilled workers. What they work on, if anybody has robots or conveyors in their plant, then they need these type of workers,” he said. “With the scholars program, we are training and educating students to the BMW standards.”
Wilson said the decision to expand the program is due to the increased need over the last three to five years.
“Our infrastructure has grown significantly in the last three years, with a new body shop that has 2,000 robots, the expansion of our paint shop with 240 robots and our assembly hall retooling,” he said. “As a result, we need more equipment maintenance employees.”
Knudt Flor, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing, said in a statement that constant change in the automotive industry’s technology is another reason for the program expansion.
“Now more than ever, we must invest in highly-skilled workers who can solve problems,” he said. “Investing in BMW Scholars allows us to develop a pool of talented men and women who will help sustain the future of BMW.”
Since its inception, six classes have completed the program, producing 138 graduates, all of whom were offered full-time positions within the company, Wilson said.
A member of the current class, 32-year-old Joel Pridemore of Spartanburg, said he’s set to graduate in June. Since 2016, Pridemore has taken classes full-time at Spartanburg Community College and worked about 20 hours per week at BMW.
“It’s been pretty awesome. The classes you take here are top of the line, and it’s the same equipment you’ll be using at the plant, so you’re learning exactly what you’ll be doing on the job,” he said. “The school and the plant work together to make sure our education is lining up.”
In addition to Spartanburg Community College, scholars can attend Greenville Technical College, Tri-County Technical College in Pendleton and, now, Piedmont Technical College. In the program, students attend class full-time and work part-time at the BMW plant. The company covers the cost of tuition and books, provides healthcare benefits and pays students for their work at BMW.
Wilson said adding Piedmont to the mix was a natural choice.
“It was primarily due to its location,” he said. “They have this similar kind of curriculum already and they’ll work with our team to better develop the curriculum we need here at BMW.”