Technical Education Post

News and Information for Technical Educators

Piedmont Advanced Manufacturing Center

Piedmont Technical College is establishing an Advanced Manufacturing Center in Edgefield County, a $10 million endeavor that’s one of about $100 million worth of new investments by Piedmont Tech in the seven-county region it serves. Piedmont Advanced Manufacturing Center.

The South Carolina Department of Commerce reports that manufacturing employment in the state has averaged 17% growth over the past 10 years. Local level investments have been a part of that: both Generac and Bridgestone have expanded their output in recent years.

“We wanted to make sure students in our rural counties have an opportunity to compete for those high-wage jobs,” Dr. Hope Rivers, president of Piedmont Technical College, said.

The Edgefield County Center for Manufacturing Excellence is still in its earliest stages. Funded by a portion of the county’s share from South Carolina’s settlement the U.S. Department of Energy, the $10 million for its construction is already in hand.

Edgefield County administrator David Caddell confirmed that the county is pursuing a land acquisition deal that would allow for the center to go up in the existing industrial park in Trenton, immediately next to Generac.

Piedmont’s Dr. Rivers said the new facility would offer Mechatronics, Computer Numeric Control (CNC) and Machine Tool Technology programs but that a full program list is still being developed.

Develop Skilled Labor Pool

Having a skilled labor pool is something that the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce has been emphasizing as “the primary component of everything a business chooses,” as the department’s Robert Davis told North Augusta Chamber of Commerce members last summer.

And having that skilled workforce available locally – or having a space available locally that can shift and morph LEGO-style to fit a company’s specific training needs – is integral both to attracting new investment and to encouraging continued investment by existing business, Rivers said.

Piedmont’s Russell Martin, vice president of marking and public relations, said the college is also establishing an Advanced Manufacturing Center in Saluda County and a Health Sciences building in Greenwood County.

But about that old pottery building, Rivers said it was “kind of an introduction to the fact that, if we are going to train – and continuously train because we see how quickly technology is changing – we’re going to need a facility in that location that will allow Generac and others to be able to train their workforce at the ready, without having to come in and up-fit a place or bring in mobile labs and all of that: it’s ready to go when they need to train their workforce.”

Department of Labor Grant

Piedmont Tech was awarded a $4.9 million, four-year federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor early in 2023.

This Strengthening Community Colleges grant is meant to expand access to technical education and, more specifically, to extend these colleges’ reach into rural communities.

Part of that effort here is in setting up mobile labs, which will launch in Edgefield County this fall.

“It’s bringing education to the students instead of them having to go out and try to figure out how to make their way to the main campus of any of our colleges,” Rivers said. It’s about “reaching them where they are,” she added.

The labs will be outfitted with equipment needed to support various Advanced Manufacturing programs and be stationed for a semester or two throughout the county.

“Exposure for students in rural communities means everything. If they don’t know – they’ve never seen it – then they can’t really dream about it. And if you’ve seen it, then you can’t really un-see it,” Rivers said.

Once the Edgefield County Center for Manufacturing Excellence is fully established, high school students will also benefit.

Though Piedmont Tech already offers college courses to high school students, these courses are for general education credits. With the center established, “that all changes,” Rivers said.

“You can still do English and math and sciences, but you can now add your Advanced Manufacturing courses – you can add your Machine Tool [learning], you can add your engineering-type courses – all of those things will then be right there for those students to explore during high school, get some credit for it, get their feet wet, and then they can decide if they want to go into that area,” she said.

Source: Piedmont Advanced Manufacturing Center

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