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S.C. Chamber names winners of Workforce Innovator Awards

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Staff Report
Published Feb. 18, 2016

Three companies with deep roots in the Midlands are recipients of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Innovator Award, announced today during the 2016 Workforce Symposium at the Columbia Marriott.

The winners for small, medium, and large employer categories represent members who have used their own resources and ingenuity to implement private sector workforce development solutions to address the skills gap and help create a workforce of the future, the chamber said.

Total Comfort Solutions, based in Columbia, received the small employer honor. The company has a long-standing relationship with the state chamber, Midlands Technical College and Midlands Education and Business Alliance (MEBA). As the company sought to build its workforce, it formed a partnership through the chamber and MEBA to implement creative ways to interest students in a career in HVAC.

One of the company’s approaches is to have its technicians go into schools throughout the area and tell students what they love about their jobs. The technicians share with students a personal experience of a job that many did not know about. As a result, the enrollment in the HVAC degree programs at Midlands Tech doubled, increasing the pool of technicians for Total Comfort Solutions to grow.

As Total Comfort Solutions grew from one office to six in South Carolina and Georgia, Midlands Tech became a strategic partner, providing tailored training not only for technical skills but also for soft skills, communication skills, leadership and team building skills. Total Comfort Solutions now partners with technical colleges across the state as well as Regional Education Centers and local Workforce Investment Boards to tailor apprenticeship programs, internship programs and QuickJobs training to fill its workforce needs.

Recipient of the honors for medium-sized employers was MTU America, of Graniteville. MTU’s apprenticeship program, which partners with Aiken County School District, Apprenticeship Carolina, and Aiken Technical College, gives high school juniors and seniors a structured training system to pursue careers in manufacturing. The program provides students an opportunity to earn a wage while they learn, and gain real-life professional experience and a career path with opportunity for growth. MTU America’s apprentices earn the Industrial Mechanic Basic certification, an international credential that qualifies them to work in any manufacturing facility in South Carolina or Germany. By developing the skills and confidence of South Carolina’s high schooler students, MTU America’s apprenticeship program has improved the local labor pool and increased the career opportunities for young people.

Michelin North America, which operates a tire plant in Lexington County, created the Michelin Technical Scholars Program that enables qualified students to attain a two-year Engineering Technology associate degree (e.g. Electronic Engineering Technology or Mechatronics) from a technical college while working part time for the company.

The program provides the student with a unique opportunity to gain academic and practical experience at the same time. Michelin Technical Scholars receive scholarships to cover the cost of tuition, fees and books for the program, along with competitive pay and part-time work and benefits. Once they complete the two-year program, students become full time employees. This program has helped Michelin to attract talent in a very competitive field. Today, Michelin North America, headquartered in Greenville, employs more than 60 Technical Scholars in its plants.

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