Aiken Tech Career Programs Aim to Counter Workforce Shortage

Aiming to fill thousands of vacant jobs across South Carolina, Aiken Technical College is offering no-cost or quick-turnaround certifications for technicians in manufacturing, wireless tower maintenance and other fields.

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Gabriel Barrington, a student at one of Chicago's community colleges, is seeking a bachelor's degree in manufacturing technology.
Ana Vargas
(TNS) — Aiken Technical College's rapid response to workforce training needs is preparing young adults and older students to fill vacant positions in a variety of professions in the Palmetto State.

"The latest figure in South Carolina is that there are 80,000 jobs without people," the school's president, Dr. Forest Mahan, told the Rotary Club of Aiken during the organization's meeting Monday at Newberry Hall. "We have to do something, not a year down the road or two years down the road. We have to do something now."

That includes offering educational opportunities at no cost to students that are being paid for with money from the government and other sources.

Last year, Aiken Tech launched a 12-day, certified wireless tower technician course.

It is "completely paid for," Mahan said. "And any one that can complete it — and climb a 90-foot tower — can get a job making anywhere from $40,000 to $50,000 a year. There is 100% placement if they'll take the job (being offered). But there is a trick to it, because they have to go to where the job is."

In other words, the demand for towers and technicians is high in many places other than Aiken County, so newly certified technicians willing to travel will have the most opportunities to go to work quickly.

Another no-cost-for-students option at Aiken Tech is the South Carolina Manufacturing Certification Course.

One began April 12 and will run through June 17.

Another is scheduled from July until October.

The course's students learn about safety, quality practices and measurement, manufacturing processes and production, and maintenance awareness.

"There is no guarantee of employment, but they (the students) do get exclusive interview opportunities with companies such as BAE Systems, MTU, AGY, Graniteville Specialty Fabrics and MAU (Workforce Solutions)."

Because of a partnership between the South Carolina Technical College System and the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, students can complete a 14-week certificate program at Aiken Tech that provides a new pathway to a career in law enforcement.

There are no tuition costs.

Students can apply the 12 credit hours they earn toward the 66 required to earn an associate degree in criminal justice degree at Aiken Tech.

"If they get a job with a local law enforcement agency in the state (within a year after completing the certificate program), they can then prequalify to go to the academy (for eight weeks of training)."

They must pass a cumulative exam and physical assessment test administered by the Criminal Justice Academy to be eligible to attend the school, which is in Columbia.

Aiken Tech also has teamed up with the Aiken County Career & Technology Center to provide education opportunities in cybersecurity that help speed up the process for students seeking work in that field.

For more information about Aiken Tech, which is in Graniteville, visit atc.edu.

(c)2021 the Aiken Standard (Aiken, S.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.