More than 300 eighth-grade students from Sumter and Lee Counties recently converged at the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center on Broad Street to gain a greater understanding of the advanced technology required in today’s manufacturing. And although the Expo was held on the last day of March, the purpose of the event was to make a ‘lasting’ impression on those in attendance far beyond the day. From listening to motivational speakers and taking tours of technology to strolling through an industry fair, there were a host of engaging activities for the students and their school chaperones—all designed to grab their attention and hopefully, maintain it.
Modern manufacturing is on the rise—so is the pay. The average salary for a manufacturing job in SC is $54,444; while the average salary for other jobs in the state is $40,797, yet there are currently more than 350 unfilled manufacturing positions, demonstrating the critical need for a skilled workforce. Affrica Spain was on hand for the expo encouraging the students from the nine participating middle schools to reach beyond working in fast food—even as a teenager. Spain, was a registered apprentice through Apprenticeship Carolina and the United States Department of Labor. The Introduction to Manufacturing Program at the Sumter Career and Technology Center is where it all began for Spain. Through the apprenticeship program, he started working at Continental Tire during his senior year of high school and shared how it has allowed him to purchase a car and become a homeowner.
In addition to motivational speeches, the students engaged with more than 20 regional employers, all with interactive displays and technical demonstrations to highlight their manufacturing processes and the technology involved. An economic development challenge game tested the students’ community-based knowledge.