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Clemson, tech schools partner for workforce training

Charleston Regional Business Journal
Matt Tomsic
October 26, 2011

Clemson University and the three of the state’s technical colleges announced a partnership this morning to provide virtual and distance learning for workers in the automotive and aviation fields.

The university won a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development, which will collaborate with technical schools to create Advanced Technological Education resource centers at Trident Technical College, Greenville Technical College and Florence-Darlington Technical College.

“The face of industry in South Carolina is changing dramatically,” said Imtiaz Haque, director of the Carroll A. Campbell Jr. Graduate Engineering Center at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research.

Haque said the state has moved from textiles and other industries to advanced manufacturing in automotive and aerospace. The transition requires a workforce different from that of years ago, he said.

Clemson won the grant after meeting with industries across the state to determine their workforce needs, said Anand Gramopadhye, director of the satellite research centers. The program is designed to give the participating technical schools more resources to teach their automotive and aerospace students.

Gramopadhye said students who are in manufacturing curricula will have access to online modules that use virtual reality, simulation and other visual tools.

For instance, he said, a student who has to learn about direct-current circuits for a class will be able to pull a Web-based lesson from the Workforce Development Center. That type of e-learning allows students and professors more time to build skills-based training; plus, that same hypothetical lesson on DC circuits could be applied to technicians in other industries that use the same knowledge.

Gramopadhye said Clemson and its partners are working on matching courses with curricula and hope to have something to showcase by next summer.

“The potential impact is multifold,” Gramopadhye said.

Clemson President James Barker said everyone in the state agrees the universities and technical schools should work together to provide a trained workforce, and the new statewide initiative is a step in that direction.

“We also know it’s a myth manufacturing is disappearing in our state,” Barker said.

Officials from Robert Bosch LLC and The InterTech Group also praised the initiative.

“It definitely reassures us,” said Jonathan Zucker, president for InterTech, which recently announced that its aviation subsidiary, TIGHitco, would open a manufacturing facility in North Charleston.

Businesses choose to locate near talent pools, and the initiative will be a boon for companies looking for newly trained workers and workers who need continuing education, he said.

David Brown, director of human resources for Robert Bosch LLC, said he hopes the partnership will create a larger pool of local applicants to choose from, as the manufacturer is looking to hire 300 workers through 2015.

“I hope that it will put a larger pool of potential associates for us who can join our organization and have a shorter ramp-up time to when they are full contributors,” he said.

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