Koyo Builds Workforce with Tri-County Graduates

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Koyo Builds Workforce with Tri-County Graduates

As a growing number of its longtime associates move toward retirement, Koyo Bearings in West Union is preparing for the transition by steadily building its pipeline of skilled employees with Tri-County Technical College graduates.

“We communicate with the Career Center and Tri-County to hire students who can co-op in high school and continue with us when they are enrolled in a degree program at Tri-County,” said Kellie Smith-Boone, senior HR analyst.

“Our senior employees take with them a wealth of knowledge and expertise, so we are continuously recruiting because these jobs take years to train for.  By identifying future retirements, we are preparing ourselves to recruit and retain the best,” she added.

“Many associates we hire are current Tri-County students or graduates.  It’s always good to see Tri-County Technical College listed on most of the resumes that come across my desk,” said Boone, who received an associate in Arts degree in 2001 before transferring to Limestone College to earn a bachelor’s degree.

She says she is appreciative of the dual enrollment partnership between Tri-County and career centers, which gives qualifying high school students the opportunity to gain high school and college credits at the same time by taking college-level courses in their high schools or career centers, as well as on Tri-County’s campuses or online.

Often, these dual enrollment students have a year of college under their belt when they graduate from high school and have only a year left to complete the Tri-County degree.

“We are super excited about the Oconee Campus opening this fall and its proximity to the plant, making it easier for our associates to take classes and take advantage of our tuition reimbursement plan,” she said.

Koyo employees who earn A’s and B’s in associate degree and bachelor’s degree programs receive 100 percent reimbursement -  up to $25,500, she said.  “It’s a win for everyone.”

Many employees have completed the South Carolina Manufacturing Certification (SCMC) class taught though Tri-County Technical College’s Corporate and Community Education Division.

The SCMC training is a 200-hour curriculum that includes the opportunity to earn 11 nationally-recognized credentials. Topics include industrial safety, quality, blueprints and measurement, production processes and some basic understanding of industrial equipment and maintenance.  At least eight at the plant have graduated from SCMC, and five are currently enrolled.

“The key is to practice what they are learning in class at Tri-County and put it into perspective here,” said Boone.

“Our employees are paired with a mentor along the way.  They are able to progress while in high school through the Youth Apprenticeship Program and when they enroll at Tri-County they enter the Adult Apprenticeship Carolina Program.”

Tool and die maker Johnathan Smith took Machine Tool classes at West-Oak High School and began working at Koyo his senior year.  He earned a scholarship to attend Tri-County’s CNC program and graduated in 2008.

He trained with mentors in the machine shop (for a year) and advanced to another year of training with a mentor in the Tool and Die Department in preparation for full-time employment.

The degree allowed him to develop his skills and accelerate faster, he said.  “Earning a degree from Tri-County was a good decision; it makes finding work easier.”


*The content of this article was originally created by Tri-County Technical College and is being shared with their permission. *

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