UNION COUNTY — If you were given $500 cash when you graduated from high school how long would it have lasted? Given that we’re talking about teenagers — especially if they are left to their own devices — probably not very long. What if, however, that $500 was not just a reward for getting your diploma, not just a symbol of your achievement, but part of the beginning of a career that in the years ahead could bring you many times the money you received at graduation.
That was the case for Union County High School students Michael Foster, Nathaniel Lindsay, Cedrickus Neal, Allison Wall, and Levi Wood who, on May 9, graduated from the Operation Workforce Training program in a ceremony held at Main Street Junction in downtown Union. During the ceremony, the students not only received their certificates of graduation, they were also each presented with envelopes containing $500 in cash by Lockhart Power Company President Bryan Stone. After presenting the students with the money, Stone announced that a local industry was ready to hire all five of the graduates.
Why? Why is a local industry ready to hire a group of teenagers and give them good-paying jobs as soon — or even before — they graduate from high school.
The industry is ready to do so because of what the students have learned in successfully completing the Operation Workforce Training program.
Operation Workforce Training was developed by Katherine Pendergrass, Director of Union County Community Development, at the direction of Union County Supervisor Frank Hart to deal with the fact that an average of 40 percent of all students do not have plan for what they will do after high school. The process initiated by Pendergrass at Hart’s direction ultimately developed Operation Workforce Training through a collaborative effort involving the county, the Union County School District, Spartanburg Community College (SCC), and, as of this year, Lockhart Power. The goal of the program is to help provide those high school students gain the direction they need to achieve success in life following high school while also developing a a trained workforce that can meet the needs of local industry.
This brings us to Pam Cavendar, an Industrial Instructor for SCC who taught the most recent session of Operation Workforce Training. Cavendar was one of the speakers at the May 9 graduation ceremony and she spoke about the program and the impact she wants to see it have and how it can have that impact.
“Having forty years of experience working in manufacturing makes these subject near to my heart,” Cavendar said. “I want our manufacturing jobs here in Union County and South Carolina to grow so our children and grandchildren will have great places to work and raise a family.
“Since I have worked in many areas of manufacturing: Industrial Engineer, Safety, Training, Continuous Improvement, Purchasing, and Human Resource, I know the knowledge we would like to see our new employees acquire prior to employment,” she said. “The subjects covered in this sixty-five hour Operation Workforce Training gives them the skill sets that will allow them to obtain a job and move quickly through the system to higher paying positions, if they apply themselves.”
Cavendar said Operation Workforce Training covers the following skills, all of which manufacturers want and need their employees to possess, preferably before they are hired:
1. MSSC Quality Practices & Management
MSSC is Manufacturing Skill Standard Council, which is recognized nationwide as an industry-led, training, assessment and certification system focused on the core skills and knowledge needed by the nation’s front-line production and material handling workers.
• Most industry jobs require the employee to understand SOPs with drawings, how to take and convert measurements, use precision tools and gauges, and machines that require the operator to know how to understand charts and graphs.
• This course material prepared the students with those basic skills.
2. Lean Six Sigma
Quality continuous improvement systems. In any industry, they must have a Quality Assurance Program. In a Quality Assurance Program the key is a continuous improvement cycle to make the product better.
• The students learned all the tools used in Lean Six Sigma with hands-on challenges. They manufactured a part and checked its quality with and without the Lean tools. Lean tools they learned and used: DMAIC cycle, Kaizen Teams, A3 report, 8 Waste, 5S, Cause & Effect (5 Whys/Fishbone) problem solving, Value Stream Mapping, Control Charts, Standard Work, and more.
• The students are qualified to be on a Kaizen team and assist in improving their job.
3. OSHA 10 for General Industry
All Industries are required to train their employees on safety as it applies to their job. These students have completed a certified OSHA 10 class with a certification card. This will shorten the training time the industry will need to train.
4. Forklift Safety Certificati
The students have all completed and received their certification which is a great skill to add.
Cavendar concluded her address by commenting on the students and their performance in the program and her confidence that what they’ve learned and the dedication they demonstrated in learning those skills will serve them well in the years to come.
“I am confident these students have skills and knowledge to impress any industry,” Cavendar said. “I enjoyed teaching this group, each one participated in all the activities, and their attendance was great. I wish them all much deserved success.”