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Midlands Technical College, Local School District Officials Strategize on How Students Can Get Great Jobs Quickly

For three years, Midlands Technical College (MTC) and representatives from every school district in Lexington, Richland, and Fairfield counties have participated in annual summits to shape realistic solutions for high school students to get the education needed to find good-paying jobs upon graduation. One focus of this year’s summit was how Midlands businesses could expand their pipeline of future employees by making an investment in students while they are still in college or high school.

“Our overall goal in holding the Summit is to increase higher education opportunities for all the students we serve,” said MTC President Dr. Ronald L. Rhames.  “This year, we focused on how local businesses who rely on MTC students as future employees can have a stake in ensuring they get highly trained students into the workforce as soon as possible.”

Rhames challenged the attendees to explore ways to increase the number of students graduating from school district technology centers. These students could take career-oriented programs at MTC and meet the workforce needs of the community more quickly.

Richland County School District One Board Member Darrell Black said he also recognizes the need for employers to help create a system that engages students early and prepares them for the hundreds of good-paying career opportunities that exist right now in the Midlands.

“I want to thank MTC for this courageous conversation and would like to encourage us to explore how we can engage corporate America in helping our students pay for college,” said Black. “They have a need for talent recruitment and development. What we need is more of a support system for corporate tuition assistance, because for many, paying for college can be a challenge.”

A number of local companies who rely on MTC to fill their pipeline of technically trained employees already invest in students while still in high school or college. Michelin North America recruits local high school students, giving them part-time employment and paying 100 percent of their tuition and fees at MTC. Other companies like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Flex, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, and International Paper also provide financial support to students hoping to find employment in the Midlands and help boost the local economy.

“Michelin relies on the great employees that come from Midlands Technical College,” said Mike Williams, Michelin’s Facility Personnel Manager in Lexington. “If we as a company expect highly competent employees, it’s important that we support programs that provide advanced technical training.”

MTC can sometimes secure financial support for companies that invest in college students they hope to hire. Last year, MTC secured more than $430,000 in funding for apprenticeship programs through the South Carolina Apprenticeship Initiative grant. MTC put this money to work helping 19 local companies create more than 173 new apprenticeships in a variety of different industries including healthcare, manufacturing, and information technology.

“Right now, we are working with the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce to pilot our first Youth Apprenticeship program next spring with Richland School District Two,” said Rhames. “Many of MTC’s programs in healthcare, such as community pharmacy, look very promising to be a part of these pilot programs.”

Nephron Pharmaceuticals, which provides financial support to MTC students, has a variety of positions it fills with MTC graduates.

“There are so many divisions of our company, and there are so many tracks that you can take at MTC that benefit us,” said Lou Kennedy, CEO and Co-Owner of Nephron. “I think that students really can get anywhere from MTC.”

Rhames said other ideas discussed at the Summit revolve around finding smoother, quicker, and less expensive ways for students to transition from high school to college.

“MTC has early college programs in many high schools, where students take college-level courses taught by MTC instructors at the high schools,” he said. “Credits earned this way can be applied toward high school and college graduation.”

High school students can also earn college credits by enrolling in the Midlands Middle College on the MTC Airport Campus, the Richland One Middle College on the MTC Beltline Campus, or by registering for courses at MTC outside of high school hours.

“Our overall goal is to give students an affordable education that makes them career ready quickly,” Rhames said. “We hope area employers will reach out to MTC and our local school districts to explore new opportunities that will meet their workforce needs.”