EASLEY — The president of Tri-County Technical College makes an impassioned argument for the Pendleton-based community college’s strength as an economic development tool.
The school, which has expanded to multiple locations, including a year-old Easley Campus, during Booth’s nine year tenure, is both a trainer, providing opportunities for good paying jobs for local people and as the agency that provided manufacturers with the workforce they need.
“Our students make stuff. The make the world work,” he told a gathering of Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce members Thursday.
Training for nurses puts out students who are employed at an almost 100 percent level. “Our nursing students, anyone in the medical field are gone; they are good. They have jobs when they leave,” Booth said.
“Our industrial technology student, they all have jobs,” Booth said.
That develops from a concerted effort to provide employers with workers skilled in the jobs needed.
He is seeing expansion to programs and facilities, Quick Job Centers and satellite locations in Easley and Oconee.
The next to go on line is a refurbished 43,000-square-foot facility in Sandy Springs between Pendleton and Anderson along Clemson Boulevard. It will house welding and heating and air-conditioning programs initially with 15,ooo square feet left available. “That is a good thing. You don’t want to start out a new facility already outdated and unable to grow,” he said.
“We could have built a new building for about $12 million probably,” Booth said. The school bought an existing building for $900,000. “We put a bout $3 million into it (for the program), so I think we made a good deal. It is nice. It makes me want to become a welder.”
He recently met with corporate CEOs and asked them for their major concern. “I asked them what keeps them up at night. ‘Keeping a good workforce,’ is what they told me.”
A response to that need is building and improving a mechatronics program.
Mechatronics is a new interdisciplinary field involving mechanical systems, instrumentation, electronics, robotics, automation, computers and control systems. Systems are networked together to meet the demands of highly automated manufacturing processes. Mechatronics technicians are trained to master the skills necessary to install, maintain and repair this sophisticated equipment.
That is important for companies which regularly hire Tri-County Tech students and graduates.
One student came to the Pendleton campus driving a BMW he had purchased working for BMW making $60,000 a years, Booth said. “I could not have bought enough advertising to do what that student did by driving onto campus and talking to the students that gathered,” he said.
Providing specific training for manufacturers is also a part of the service that Tri-County Tech provides.
The school also has an apprenticeship program that it manages in cooperation with area manufacturers. “They provide job skill certification,” Booth said.
Relative to other educational programs, a technical college education is inexpensive, he argues.
A year will cost a student $3,600 in tuition. “Lottery funding will pay $2,200. We have total tuition of $22 million and financial aid of $24 million. That tells me that most students can leave with no debt and go to work at a BMW or some other place making $48,000 a year,” Booth said.