The highly touted Georgetown Center for Advanced Manufacturing, part of the Horry-Georgetown Technical College system, is taking advantage of a national trend recognizing the need for trade and industrial skills.

Additionally, Georgetown residents and manufacturing facilities are specially situated to benefit from this trend, according to Dr. Marilyn Fore, President of HGTC.

“It is a breakthrough,” Dr. Fore said. “This was not a boilerplate decision. Four years ago we kept hearing there was a need for a skilled workforce.”

She said they visited every manufacturer in the area and got a huge response expressing a need for skilled welders, employees who know mechatronics, CAM and CAD and more. The new Center for Advanced Manufacturing is a response to that need.

“We knew at that time we needed to step up to the plate and build a facility to train here in Georgetown County and the surrounding area,” Dr. Fore said.

More than $14 million have been invested in the facility which boasts 30,000 square feet of educational and training space which equates to about 5,000 more square feet than the similar existing facility in Conway.

Like the Conway Campus, the Georgetown facility will have training facilities dedicated to a machine tool program as well as a welding program. However, unlike Conway, Georgetown will have a dedicated Mechatronics training area as well. The availability of these programs and the advantages of the Georgetown campus bode well for both local businesses and residents looking for new opportunities according to Brandon Haselton, Assistant Dean for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing.

Haselton stated the Conway Advanced Manufacturing campus has a 100 percent job placement rate for its graduates. However, Conway’s location tends to draw students from Horry County and even Wilmington, North Carolina. As a result, Haselton said he has local manufacturing companies expressing frustration with the inability to get skilled workers from these programs.

“We’ve got employers right here in our backyard that are screaming for employees,” Haselton said. “They cannot hire because there is a lack of skill sets.”

The Georgetown campus will be an asset to local industries seeking skilled workers as well as the local population looking for opportunities to work.

“It is much needed,” said State House Representative Carl Anderson. “We’re more or less an industrious area.”

Anderson, a 1981 graduate of HGTC himself, was instrumental in getting state and local support for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing. He said the facility not only provides a future for local residents and companies, but will be an attractive commodity for future manufacturing investment if the port dredging can occur. He said the local Center for Advanced Manufacturing can do for Georgetown what Trident Tech did for the Charleston area in attracting Boeing. The Center is not only its own factory which produces a skilled workforce but a professional facility that can be utilized by companies to train their existing workforce as well.

Furthermore, the investment from individuals looking for an opportunity to get into a career with a future is minimal. Haselton said there are many ways students who qualify can participate in the program for free. Not only are there opportunities for tuition being covered but books and necessary personal equipment as well.

“Just sign up and begin the journey,” Haselton said. The time investment is also relatively minor.

Graduates can complete a welding program in only three semesters and make anywhere from $20 to $25 per hour, he said.

The Machine Tool and Mechatronics programs can be completed in five semesters as well as Associate in Applied Science Degree programs associated with the offered manufacturing tracts.

“In two years they can come in and completely negotiate these programs and get out into the workforce,” Haselton said. He shared the story of a recent graduate from the Conway campus; a young lady who completed the Machine Tool program. She had no prior experience and had a job as a Production Superintendent at a local manufacturing facility.

“It happens all the time,” he said.

While construction is still happening at the Georgetown Center for Advanced Manufacturing, classes are expected to start on August 26. Space is still available and students are accepted only once per year in the fall.

“It offers so many opportunities,” Haselton said.

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