New program would let Aiken Co. students skip college, get jobs instead

News 12 at First at Five / Friday, June 1, 2012

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. -- Joerg Klisch oversees the construction of massive diesel engines in MTU Tognum America's Graniteville plant. But Klisch also has another project; it’s building a smarter education system.

"There is a gap in the education system in the U.S., we think,” Klisch said.

He knows some students don't want to go to college. Many others can't afford it. That's why he's developed a new program that will start next school year.

Six eleventh graders in Aiken County will start special apprenticeships at Tognum America.

"Every week, they will come to us to Tognum and spend two the three hours every week on the assembly line, in machining center, in the test cell, in the paint booths,” Klisch said.

When they graduate as seniors, they'll have a basic industrial mechanic certificate and the ability to work almost anywhere.

"It's Bridgestone across the road, it would be BAE, it's Kimberly Clark, BMW in Greeville, they can go to Boeing in Charleston,” said Klisch, listing only a few examples.

It's a brand new program Klisch recently explained to education officials at the White House. It's something he and others hope will grow wings and get students on track to jobs at earlier ages.

"Boys at the eighth grade, you really need to reach them at the eighth grade or before. Girls are even earlier than that -- fourth and fifth grade,” said Dave Deal of Aiken Technical College.

Deal is chair of the Industry and Skilled Trades Department at Aiken Tech. Aiken Tech is also on board with the program he says will lead to advanced jobs that pay well.

"Fifty percent of your college graduates cannot find a job. That kind of wakes people up to saying, well, maybe there needs to be something else,” Deal said.

Back in Graniteville, Klisch hopes his program is part of that solution, and he hopes Aiken County's brand new program will spread across the nation.

Klisch says when students pass through the program, they have three options. They can get a full-time manufacturing job, they can work full time and MTU would help pay for more advanced training with a tuition program or they can work part time, and MTU would give them a scholarship to advance even faster in a local university.

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