PENDLETON — Kenneth Buchanan spent the last year putting the final pieces of his career path into place to prepare him to graduate from Tri-County Technical College’s Mechatronics program before he turns 20.
He started his plan as a senior at Crescent High School by enrolling in the Career Pathways Program (CPP), which enables students to achieve a Tri-County credential by the time they graduate from high school.
CPP gives students a head start on college, allowing them to complete an associate degree in a technical program within one year of full-time study after high school.
Last year Buchanan earned a college certificate in Basic Electronics weeks before graduating from high school.
“I was pretty proud walking across the stage before I graduated from Crescent. The Career Pathways Program is a good opportunity to get ahead in college,” added Buchanan, who hopes one day to enroll at Clemson University.
He began Tri-County’s Mechatronics program this fall as a third-semester student with more than 20 college credits and a silver WorkKeys certification.
He gained on-the-job experience at TTI Power Equipment in Anderson last summer through a WorkLink paid work experience, while earning more certifications through the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and ServSafe.
At 18 Kenneth plans to graduate from Tri-County within a year — debt free — thanks to the state proviso that paid for pathways classes, along with a LIFE scholarship and Pell grant.
“That’s a big deal for me and my parents. It can’t get any better than this,” said Buchanan. “College is so much easier when you start at Tri-County with smaller classes and teachers, who interact one on one and help you when you have problems. Working at TTI gave me real-world experience that complements my classes this semester.”
Through the Workforce Development Board (WorkLink) and its youth service provider, Palmetto Youth Connections, last summer Buchanan and five other 2015 Anderson School District Three high school graduates participated in paid work experiences.
To be eligible for the program, participants must be 18 years old, enrolled in an in-demand, career cluster/career pathways program, have earned a WorkKeys certificate, plan to pursue a postsecondary degree, and meet Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) youth eligibility criteria.
Jennifer Campbell, workforce development specialist for PYC, worked with Kenneth in career readiness classes for young workers prior to his interview at TTI. Campbell got to know Buchanan as she helped him and other students with resume building and interviewing skills before he secured the job at TTI.
For eight weeks, he worked in the compliance test lab assisting with hands-on applications, such as monitoring the temperature on battery-operated tools while they are being used. He also spent time learning basic analog and digital controls.
“Kenneth was able to perform basic monitoring which allowed me and others in the lab to set up more testing,” said Mike Brue, a lab technician who supervised Buchanan. “Kenneth came in prepared with general knowledge that he could build on during his time here. Kenneth is intelligent, diligent, and hard working. He is always willing to take direction and willing to learn. We’d love to have him back next summer. He will make a great technician one day.”
“I learned something new every day. My supervisor and PYC coaches taught me a lot,” Buchanan said. “It was a great learning experience. I was challenged every single day.”
He was evaluated by PYC staff on his transferable skills that are applicable to all jobs, such as attendance, punctuality, workplace appearance, response to supervision, communication and teamwork. He was rated highly in all areas, Campbell added.
“Kenneth is respectful of others and takes his work seriously. He is mature for his age, quick to learn and takes pride in his work and his appearance. Supervisors and co-workers spoke highly of him and his capabilities. He was a bright light for us. I see a promising future for Kenneth. I’m proud of what he accomplished and how he represented our program.”
PYC Career Coach Rhonda Wengerd, who met Buchanan when he was selected for the in-school youth pilot program, got to know him as they met on a regular basis during his work at TTI.
“I admire his perseverance in completing a college certificate while in high school, as well as his dedication to his work at TTI. He kept going. He didn’t slow down. He still hasn’t as he pursues his career goal.”
Technical Career Pathways for High School Students
• In 2013 the College and Crescent High School piloted a technical career pathways program that included 7 students enrolled in the Basic Electronics Certificate at the Anderson Campus.
• Later that year, the S.C. General Assembly funded a proviso making it possible for high school students to take college courses in career pathways with little or no out-of-pocket costs.
• Since that time, the program has grown to 166 students from all seven school districts.
• Programs include Automotive, Industrial Electronics, Mechatronics, HVAC, and Welding.
• Participants take two or more technical courses each year with the goal to graduate with a college certificate as high school seniors and transition directly into college in the associate degree program or enter the workforce.
This story courtesy of Tri-County Technical College.