Apprenticeship is a centuries-old workforce-development tool that has experienced a recent resurgence. But it’s just a way of doing business for the Schaeffler Group, a German, family-owned company that began its U.S. operations in Cheraw in 1964.
Our apprenticeship program is the oldest certified journeyman program of its type in South Carolina. It focused on tool and die makers when it began in 1988 but has since been expanded to include machinists, electrical-mechanical technicians and programming. The company participated in a White House roundtable in March to share its success.
Over the years, we have recruited and trained 300 apprentices, who learn our way of doing business while they earn a two-year associates degree from the local technical college. We’ve seen improvements in productivity, quality and safety by having a highly-skilled, trained workforce. Most impressively, the company has a 90 percent retention rate among its apprentices.
Currently, 918 S.C. companies have a registered apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship Carolina, South Carolina’s official liaison for registering programs, has been responsible for growing the number of companies with programs more than 10 times what it was just a decade ago. However, there is still plenty of room to grow.
Apprenticeship programs provide standardized training and operational consistency that in turn ensure reliable workforce performance. They help companies build a highly-skilled workforce through on-the-job training combined with job-related education.
As we’ve seen, apprenticeship can also improve employee retention by increasing employee morale and motivation. And it helps bridge that talent gap that many companies struggle with as their workforce ages, through effective transfer of knowledge from seasoned employees to new workers.
South Carolina offers a $1,000 tax credit per apprentice for up to four years, to help offset training and education costs. A $5 million grant awarded to the S.C. Technical College System’s Apprenticeship Carolina program by the Department of Labor can also help offset training costs.
South Carolina offers beautiful beaches, lush mountains, a rich history and culture. However, the state’s most striking asset is its human capital. Apprenticeship provides the opportunity to tap into this asset and grow our own. It gives South Carolinians the opportunity to hone their skills and become high-skilled technical leaders who can in turn pass their knowledge on to others. It is a real win-win.
Human Resources Manager, Schaeffler Group USA