Investing in our youth is the key to success

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By Richard K. Blackwell

Benjamin Franklin once said that an investment in knowledge pays the best kind of interest.

That thinking is why representatives from the Oconee Economic Alliance, School District of Oconee County, the Hamilton Career Center and Apprenticeship Carolina have joined forces to create a way for local businesses to get involved with the future of our youth in Oconee County. They have worked to create a program to not only empower our future employees of Oconee County, but also the future of our economy.

Apprenticeship Carolina is a division of the SC Technical College System that works with employers in South Carolina to create apprenticeships. The S.C. Youth Apprenticeship is further division of Apprenticeship Carolina that focuses on pairing high school students in with current employees to provide insight and hands on experience for students’ careers. The students are paid for their time and work 20 hours a week while in school. According to S.C. Youth Apprenticeship website, combining a relevant education with critical on-the-job experience provides the makings for a successful career. In fact, apprenticeships are the pinnacle of work-based learning opportunities.

The S.C. Youth Apprenticeship program recently made its way to Oconee County. Greenfield Industries Inc. added four apprentices to their payroll, becoming the first business in Oconee County to do so.

This program is a win-win scenario for both the apprentices and employers. Businesses are helping the economy’s future by strengthening the bond between education and career readiness. In some situations, apprenticeships might even turn into full time positions and what better way to solve the problem of a retiring employee then to replace them with an individual that they personally trained? Furthermore, students leave the apprenticeship with Department of Labor certification, course credit and a stronger resume. Students in the program are far more likely to start a successful career and become a hardworking member of society.

The S.C. Youth Apprenticeship program is a step in the right direction to achieve the educational goals set by Oconee Economic Alliance. The plan includes goals such as partnerships with the Oconee County School district and area colleges and further development of college preparedness. Once again, the Oconee Economic Alliance has taken visible measures to secure the future of Oconee County’s economy.

Oconee County recently earned the recognition of a Work Ready Community, enabling us to show outsiders that we are committed to a future of economic stability. A part of Work Ready certification is strengthening the link between education and career readiness, and Oconee County is continuing to demonstrate dedication to this cause. By bringing the S.C. Youth Apprenticeship program into Oconee County, we are also taking strides to maintain our Work Ready Community certification requirements.

We expect other companies in the area to take advantage of this program so that we may continue to invest in our students. By doing so, we will be able to take one more step in reaching our ultimate goal: a strong, stable future for Oconee County.


Richard K. Blackwell is the executive director of Oconee Economic Alliance, which is a public-private nonprofit effort to accelerate job creation and capital investment, increase per capita income, diversify the local tax base and generate awareness of Oconee County as a business location. To learn more visit

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