OCtech, ReadySC giving workers needed tools

6/28/2012


McKinley Calhoun, left, receives instructions from GKN Aerospace trainer Scottie Ward in the Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College ReadySC program.

Jayson Scott knew the job market was difficult, but did not know just how competitive it was until he applied for a position with one of Orangeburg’s newest employers.

“I was in total shock,” the 34-year-old Charleston resident said. “I was very surprised. Originally, we did not know there were that many applicants.”

Scott is one of nine people training for the start-up of GKN Aerospace’s Orangeburg plant in August. He is one of about 30 selected out of the nearly 1,000 who applied for GKN positions. The 30 positions will be filled by the end of the year.

The ReadySC program conducts the training at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s 25,000-square-foot Anne S. Crook Transportation and Logistics Center, which opened in May of 2010.

“I have been through a lot of training systems,” Scott said. “I have seen right and I have seen wrong. It takes a lot of thought and forethought to get people to buy into your ideal in a training program and to buy into a company. It is a tough sale.”

GKN, a supplier of aerospace and aviation components, will operate out of a 150,000-square-foot facility at the Orangeburg County/City Industrial Park. It plans to invest $38 million while creating 278 new jobs over the next six years.

It will start by building the Honda Jet fuselage, although the company will seek contracts to supply other companies.

The month-long pre- and post-hire training course has focused on everything from communication skills, teamwork and punctuality to blueprint reading, aviation math and problem solving.

Edisto High School graduate Lester Rice, 23, said he has had about six years experience in mechanics.

He was first interviewed by GKN in February, and has had tests and background checks over the past few months with pre-hire training courses beginning in May.

“It has been a great experience,” Rice said. “I have learned a lot of new things. We have learned how to come and work together as a team and not to overlook the big picture.”

As part of the training program, GKN provides one week of post-hire training in a classroom setting where new employees develop team work skills and learn the GKN standards and safety protocol.

The other two weeks include hands-on training at the OCtech logistics and transportation center lab. Hands-on training entails drilling, fastening and bonding techniques.

Following the two-week period, employees will go to GKN’s Tallassee, Ala., facility for an additional six weeks of on-the-job training.

“It is very critical that what we are producing are defect-free,” GKN General Manager Steve Pulliam said. “We are providing the skill sets up front to enable the associates to provide a good product from day one.”

“We have set up a really nice training system,” Pulliam said. “We had to develop this whole training system with the local college. We have developed a fine system. I am a firm believer in it.”

In addition to GKN, OCtech and ReadySC have also been busy assisting with recruitment and training for new production technician positions at brake manufacturer Federal Mogul Friction Products.

The company earlier this year said it expects to invest at least $7 million and create 40 new jobs at the plant. The company will manufacture brake pads for the Ford F-150 line.

The plant is on Rowesville Road (U.S. 21) south of Orangeburg.

Federal Mogul Human Resource Manager Jeff Seal said the company is planning to have three waves of training of about 75 individuals. The first two-week training was held in March and the next will begin June 18.

“It is a big help to be able to see not only the types of abilities people have, but how they apply it,” Seal said. “The training is very useful for us in the plant. They are providing a lot of leg work, not just the training, but logistics and administration getting it going.”

Seal said the training consists of lean manufacturing, problem solving and hands-on work.

“It is being able to tailor the process to fit the process we actually use here,” Seal said. “It has been very productive.”

“Industry plays a key role in maintaining the quality of life here in our community, and quality training is vital,” said Dr. Rebecca Battle-Bryant, associate vice president of corporate training and economic development at OCtech. “If a company is equipped with the best possible workforce, they will succeed and, furthermore, help our economy move forward. We have an outstanding cadre of instructors here ready to take on any and all training needs.”

OCtech also will go out to area industries and conduct training on-site. Some can even be conducted online.

This year, in addition to GKN and Federal Mogul, training has been delivered for companies such as DAK Americas, Devro Inc. and Zeus.



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