As the number of manufacturing jobs grows in Berkeley County, officials there are working to ensure residents have the skills necessary to get those jobs.
“We saw Volvo really taking shape in Berkeley County and we, of course, want to provide the workforce for big industries like that, that come to our area,” county spokeswoman Hannah Moldenhauer said.
Berkeley is the 26th fastest-growing county in the country. Since January 2015, Moldenhauer said more than $3 billion has been announced in economic development and more than 8,000 jobs have been created in the county.
To meet the demand for Volvo and other manufacturing facilities in the area, Berkeley County offers the Lean Manufacturing course for free to county residents. The program is done through a partnership with the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Ready SC, Volvo and the county school district. Classes are offered at Trident Technical College’s Moncks Corner campus.
“It’s unique,” Moldenhauer said. “To our knowledge it had never been done before.”
Since the pilot program began in May 2017, nearly 200 people have graduated from the Lean Manufacturing course.
“It’s an opportunity for the county to invest in its citizens when these industries come in so that they essentially will have the first bite of the apple,” Moldenhuer said. “But it’s also good for the industries because we’re helping support them and helping develop and provide a workforce for them so that their needs are met, as well.”
The county hosts informational sessions for residents and companies interested in participating in the courses. Moldenhauer said in the first five informational sessions, the number has grown to more than 40 companies.
“Every information session there’s been standing-room only,” she said.
In addition to providing training, the four-week program also fulfills one important requirement for candidates who want to work at Volvo or other manufacturers: a minimum of one year of work experience in manufacturing.
“To have a manufacturing job at Volvo you had to have at least one year of manufacturing experience and from what we understand, high school grads, people that are looking for a career change, they didn’t have that. But it didn’t mean that they couldn’t. So we got together with Trident Tech and this really takes the place of that one year,” Moldenhauer said.
She said the program also helps potential employees meet high school graduation requirements or GEDs.
Moldenhauer said they expect interest in the program will continue to grow.
“We don’t anticipate this will slow down anytime soon,” she said.
Funding from the program comes from economic development funds raised through sources such as payment-in-lieu-of-taxes. No taxpayer money is spent. The Lean Manufacturing course normally costs open-enrollment students $999, but it costs the county on average, about $400 per student.
But county officials say the program important to support its residents.
“We are about the quality of life and this is about creating opportunity for the citizens here, those who live here and those who want to build a family here or have a family here, so that’s what it really comes down to,” she said. “It starts with things like this.”
An informational session is 6 p.m. Friday at Trident Technical College Berkeley Campus in Moncks Corner. Click here for more information or to register.