FLORENCE, S.C. -- Florence-Darlington Technical College is expanding its career and workforce development program to better meet the needs of manufacturers in the Pee Dee region.
In January, FDTC incorporated ManuFirst SC, a program that prepares students with the skills needed to start a career in manufacturing.
Lauren Holland, the associate vice president of continuing education, said completion of the program gives students a year of manufacturing experience, which is what many manufacturers require for an entry-level job.
“It’s a good way for us to provide some short, quick training that’s on an accelerated pathway for someone with no prior manufacturing experience to get the equivalent of a year’s experience,” Holland said.
The 62-hour program goes through topics, including precision management, tool and equipment use and manufacturing soft skills. The ManuFirst SC program also allows students to earn their OSHA 10 for General Industry certification.
The program provides daytime and night-time classes, and it takes three to four weeks to complete.
With the grant application, multiple Pee Dee-area companies signed letters of support for the program at FDTC, saying they would support the students who complete the program. Ruiz Foods, Sonoco, McCall Farms and Group Beneteau are all companies that have supported students or offered jobs to students who have completed the program.
Harry Scott, a former ManuFirst SC student at FDTC, completed the program and received multiple job offers within two weeks.
“I learned a lot of stuff about manufacturing even though I had experience in manufacturing before I learned a lot in that program,” Scott said.
Scott said that after completing the program, he felt very confident in starting a job in manufacturing. He said the program put him at the top of the list for job applications.
Scott is now working as a full-time pre-batch coordinator with Ruiz Foods in Florence.
Last year, a group of technical colleges got together and decided to make a grant available for colleges to get funds to launch the program.
Holland said the college decided to start the program because of the presence of manufacturing in the area. FDTC was one of five colleges in the state to receive the grant money last fall to start the program, Holland said.
“Florence is a manufacturing center because we’re right at the crossroads of I-95 and I-20 and we’re halfway between New York and Miami,” Holland said. “Strategically for manufacturing products and getting them out the door, we’re in a good location.”
Holland said that before receiving the grant, she had an employer reach out to her to see if the college was going to include the program, because he’d heard about it elsewhere.
Holland said the program is a way to allow people who only have a high school diploma and no college degree or work experience to gain successful employment and a paycheck.
“That kind of thing not only changes people’s lives, but it also changes families’ lives, because they can do things for their children or whatever,” Holland said.
She said the program supports manufacturing employers in the Pee Dee, because currently unemployment is so low that it is hard to get enough people.
Holland said the college hopes to expand the classes to be offered in Lake City and Hartsville as well as Florence. She said the college also has classes in Marion.
The program was initially developed at Trident Technical College as a way to provide an accelerated pathway into entry-level industry careers for people with no previous manufacturing experience, according to the FDTC website.
Holland said the grants were given to five schools across South Carolina with the hope of expanding ManuFirst SC across the state.