PENDLETON —- Opportunities are abundant for two-year college graduates who leave Tri-County Technical College with a strong resume of education and direct exposure to today’s workplace, said President Ronnie L. Booth.
“Employers are always asking, ‘what can a person do for us? How can they meet our needs now?’ Our curricula gives students an introduction to their education, as well as allowing them to spend time in the field to understand what they are studying,” he said.
Recent Tri-County graduates will work in various careers ranging from health care to manufacturing to business. They work as nurses, welders, technicians, police officers and CNC operators, for example. Some have participated in industry-based scholars programs, others have engaged in internships with local businesses, while others will transfer to four –year universities through 2 + 2 articulation agreements.
Tri-County offers various avenues for students to achieve their goals and be successful, said Dr. Booth. “We define student success as taking students from where they are to where they need to be; getting them on the right path at the right time, and equipping them with the tools they need for continued success in life. Our students are here for various reasons—to gain transfer credits, to learn a skill for their job, to retrain for a new career, and/or to earn a degree or certificate,” he said.
“Our students leave here with a specific skill set that connects them immediately to the workforce,” he said.
“Work-based learning experiences, or co-ops, are probably the best ticket for a person to obtain employment,” he said. “They are introduced to the employer, and they understand what takes place in the world of work. The scholars programs we have with BMW, Michelin, Bosch, Schneider Electric and others are a means of talent recruitment and create a good pipeline of qualified individuals to fill the skills gap in manufacturing. This technical skills set can be taken anywhere,” he said.
“Everyone in manufacturing says there is a skills gap. They need graduates with sophisticated and technical abilities. They need people who can continuously learn and improve. They need people who can think and analyze problems. It takes committed lifelong learners and our instructors as well as our adjuncts, who come from business and industry to help us to teach what is new and relevant in today’s work environment.”
Students who participate in industry-sponsored scholars programs are trained on site at plants. It is a career path that offers a free education, benefits, job security, and a future with a company.
“So many technical program students spend time in clinicals and labs and co-ops. These students are introduced to the job market, make contacts and understand the opportunities they may not have considered,” said Dr. Booth.
EASY PATHWAYS TO TRANSFER
Students are choosing to transfer to four year colleges, by means of articulation agreements, or 2 + 2 programs, with Clemson, Southern Wesleyan, Presbyterian College, and the University of South Carolina, to name a few.
Just weeks after earning his associate in science degree from Tri-County, George Krutitskiy will head out to the University of Alabama in Birmingham for a 10-week research internship in neuroscience.
The 20-year-old Anderson resident, who picked up outstanding graduate honors in both science and humanities last month, will return in the fall to enter Clemson University’s Biological Sciences program as part of the 2 + 2 agreement between Tri-County and Clemson’s Biological Sciences department. The agreement signed in 2010 allows students to take 66 credit hours of a set of science classes at Tri-County and upon successful completion be accepted to Clemson without further review of credentials and with junior standing. Currently there are 15 persons enrolled in the program and two have transferred to Clemson.
“George started out a very strong student, but over the last few years, I have watched him develop into a competent and confident young man,” said Suzanne Ellenberger, who serves as his advisor and instructor. “He has the skills to do the internship and is very motivated and dedicated.” Ellenberger added that when he wasn’t in the classroom, he was engaging in community service by volunteering at AnMed’s Neuro ICU. As a result he was hired as a nursing assistant, after obtaining certification through the hospital. He also volunteered at the Anderson Free Clinic.
“Our instructors recognize talent and ability,” said Dr. Booth. “Our students aren’t in class with 180 people. Smaller classes allow faculty to get to know our students. They know the top students and give recommendations. These programs are a point of pride for us because our students have proven they can go elsewhere and get it done.”
George feels very prepared heading to the internship as well as a four-year college. His goal is to continue to medical school to be a neurosurgeon. He admits he will miss the college. “Tri-County has one of the best science departments and is a competitive learning environment. Instructors find one-on-one time to assist you. Tri-County’s high standards and professors really stand out,” he said. “I’ve had a really good college experience” said George, who graduates debt free, thanks to a LIFE scholarship, Pell grant and lottery tuition assistance.
RETOOLING FOR NEW CAREERS
Graduates include longtime employees who were laid off from their jobs and repositioned themselves for new careers by enrolling at Tri-County.
Husband and wife Medical Laboratory Technology graduates Michael and Amy Byrd of Anderson enrolled at Tri-County several years ago after being laid off from a local textile plant. Michael, now 34, worked there from age 18 through 30; Amy, 33, had been there for nine years. In 2009 they both decided to go back to school and they both chose the MLT program. “We wanted a rewarding, secure job,” said Michael. “We both had a shared goal — to do well academically and find a job. We had a purpose and we never missed class.”
It has paid off. Michael, who dropped out of high school and didn’t earn his GED until he was 30, graduated with a 4.0 as the MLT Outstanding Graduate. Amy wasn’t far behind with a 3.96, making only one B during her tenure at Tri-County. Both received Abney Scholarships through the College’s Foundation, along with Pell grants and student loans.
Although Amy graduated from high school, she says she never considered college back then. “I wasn’t ready. But as years went by, I realized what not having a degree gets you. I wanted a stable career that was rewarding.” Both took the national registry exam May 9 and are interviewing for jobs.
Their teenage son, formerly a B – C student, is taking a page from his parents’ book and buckling down in his studies. “Since we entered college, his grades have improved as well as his work ethic. He saw us studying every night. Before, we couldn’t help him with his chemistry homework. This year, we tutored him,” said Amy.
An internship gives students a leg up in terms of employability and often turn into full time jobs after graduation, said Dr. Booth.
During her last semester in the Administrative Office Technology program, Frances Clinkscales of Belton secured an internship at Anderson Interfaith Ministries (AIM). “I loved going to the internship because it was a place that focused on helping others. AIM is very team oriented and everyone is compassionate and has the same goal — to assist those in need. I loved the environment because I knew I helped at least one person every day. A lot of people can’t say they are happy to go to work every day, but I was. AIM is not a big business, but they have a big heart.”
AIM was equally as pleased with Clinkscales’ willingness to take on any challenge as well as her professionalism and offered her full-time work in its VISTA program.
“A two-year degree is key,” said Clinkscales, who didn’t graduate as a high school senior because she lacked one credit. She needed to work as a young mother and delayed finishing the class until five years later when she completed her diploma while on medical leave for knee surgery. She received her diploma in 2004. Most of her life has been spent in manufacturing jobs but during a layoff she considered a career change. “I said, ‘Here is my opportunity,’” she recalls.
“Education has changed my life and is the key to success,” she said. “My Tri-County degree, my internship at AIM and other community service made my resume stand out and has opened doors for me,” she said.
She says seeing her back in school has motivated her teenage son to get serious about his studies and to consider college. “As I look back over my life, I’ve come from being a 17-year-old mother struggling through minimum-wage jobs to getting a college degree and a career I can be proud of.”