Report: Bigger manufacturing workforce desperately needed in Aiken Co.

With all the jobs we have popping up Aiken County, there aren't many locals who have the skills to fill them. (WRDW-TV)

With all the jobs we have popping up Aiken County, there aren't many locals who have the skills to fill them. (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, March 22, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- There's Bridgestone, Tognum America and BAE Systems, too. Aiken County is becoming the place for manufacturing, but there's a problem filling a huge number of jobs.

"We've been able to find people who we would consider in our operator-type jobs, but the positions that we're having difficulty filling are more around the industrial maintenance technicians as well as engineering positions," said Fran Jones, the vice president of Administrative Services at the Aiken County plant.

She says right now, they'll have to fill about 60 percent of those engineering and industrial maintenance technician positions with workers from outside the area.

"I would love to hire local," she told News 12. "I would love to have folks who will choose those career paths."

That's the goal of a summit in Aiken on Friday morning. State, county and school leaders -- along with manufacturers themselves -- are looking for the answer to this question: How does Aiken County get more locals certified for manufacturing work?

"Right now, we have a summer camp that eighth graders can go to the career center and get a jump start on seeing what these kinds of jobs are like," said Aiken County Public School District Superintendent Dr. Beth Everitt.

Everitt says the manufacturing mindset has to start young, and some student apprenticeships are already offered at Tognum America, a large diesel engine manufacturer.

"But we really need to think about where the next generation of workforce is going to come from and how we're going to prepare the skill level that our advanced manufacturers expect," said Aiken Technical College President Dr. Susan Winsor.

Windsor says being bad at math has almost become "cool" for many students, but a new direction starts today.

"The school district and the technical college and USC Aiken are talking to kids, but we need the manufacturers engaged. Let them demonstrate that manufacturing is not a dirty environment," said Will Williams, the director of the Economic Development Partnership of Aiken and Edgefield Counties.

EDP commissioned the study, which was made public Friday morning.

Williams says the big selling point for manufacturing jobs in Aiken County is the average salary of $58,000.

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