York Tech gets $1.18M in federal money to build worker training system

York Technical College and a handful of other state schools have been given more than $14 million in federal money to build a system that more quickly trains workers who have lost jobs in the recession.

The project, headed by Greenville Technical College, is called ACCELERATE SC – Adult College Completion through E-Learning Resources and Academic Tracks to Employment. The goal is to get unemployed workers educated and re-employed.

To do that, the schools plan to create a system that moves them through college at a quicker pace than typical students.

“If you’ve been working for 30 years, you’re a different student than someone who just graduated from high school,” said Kimberly Herndon, a York Tech development coordinator.

The money is part of $500 million in grants the Department of Labor has given to community colleges to “ensure that students of all ages have access to the skills and resources they need to compete for high-wage, high-skill careers,” Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said.

The ACCELERATE schools include Spartanburg Community College, Technical College of the Lowcountry, Tri-County Technical College, Trident Technical College and Clemson University’s Center for Workforce Development. They will divide $14.13 million, and each will launch local branches of the program. York Tech will get $1.18 million.

ACCELERATE will target people eligible for the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which offers aid to workers whose jobs are threatened by international trade issues. Veterans, people who qualify for benefits through the Workforce Investment Act and adults over age 25 also will be eligible, according to Greenville Tech’s proposal to the Department of Labor.

More than 5,800 workers in the state have qualified for TAA since 2007, according to state figures.

The schools will focus on training them for advanced manufacturing jobs, which typically involve more efficient building processes that rely on new technologies.

Think BMW and Michelin plants, where instead of assembling individual products, workers oversee machines that do the work, said Carey Castle, a Greenville Tech associate vice president.

The ACCELERATE proposal to the Department of Labor lays out South Carolina’s need for the program, citing grim economic indicators:

  • Between 2001 and 2010, South Carolina lost 34 percent of its manufacturing jobs.
  • 16 percent of the state’s population lives below the federal poverty line.
  • 40.5 percent of S.C. households reported income of less than $35,000 in 2010.

“Despite the great recession, South Carolina’s advanced manufacturing sector is flourishing and serves as a linchpin of the state economy even though there are fewer manufacturing establishments,” the proposal reads.

Creating a pipeline of skilled workers for those jobs could help turn the state’s economy around, proponents argue.

The ACCELERATE SC proposal outlines strategies the schools will employ:

  • Transition centers where adults would go for support and services that make enrolling in the schools easier and completing studies quicker.
  •  Online learning programs offering “flexible and accelerated” options to learn new skills and earn college credit.
  •  Student coaching and online support to ensure students succeed and get guidance.
  •  Learning assessments and diagnostic tests that determine what skills students have for which they can be awarded college credit and that pinpoint skills they need to develop.
  •  Entrepreneurship training for students who want to use their skills to go into business. For instance, Castle said, a student who learns HVAC skills could go on to launch her own business.

The program means “each of the colleges will change the way they bring students in,” Castle said.

College officials are still discussing how to roll out the program.

“The actual details are being hammered out,” Herndon said.

By Shawn Cetrone, Staff Reporter with The Herald