Opinion Extra

How South Carolina is growing the next generation of manufacturing talent

Siemens Digital Factory Division US President Raj Batra chats with SC Gov Henry McMaster at the announcement of Siemens’ $628 million technology grant to USC.
Siemens Digital Factory Division US President Raj Batra chats with SC Gov Henry McMaster at the announcement of Siemens’ $628 million technology grant to USC.

It’s an exciting time in the world of manufacturing, and South Carolina has once again set itself apart with its commitment to the growing list of manufacturing companies that call our state home.

As a 1988 graduate of USC and an employee of Siemens for the past 10 years, I was extremely proud to take part in Siemens’ announcement last month that it was making a $628 million technology grant to the University of South Carolina, its College of Engineering and Computing and the McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research. It makes me proud to have the company I work for invest in my home state and my university.

I have witnessed the challenges that South Carolinians have faced over the years, as industries such as textiles disappear, while others such as aerospace and automotive flourish. Times are changing, and so are the skills that are required to support the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Digitalization is here. We see it every day with how we live, how we commute and how we do business, and it’s being embraced by manufacturers across the globe and right here in South Carolina. The factory of the future is here. It is smart, fast, safe, secure and efficient. And it’s not going to run itself.

S.C. manufacturers are hungry for skilled talent, and Siemens is helping to close the workforce skills gap. Our partnership with USC will provide industrial software and hardware so students and faculty can gain hands-on experience with the same state-of-the-art design and engineering platforms that are used by leading manufacturers around the world.

From the city of Columbia to the students and faculty of USC to the companies that call or will call South Carolina home, this is an annuity that will give back for decades to come.

I recall the excitement that BMW first brought to our state. In my mind, this was the turning point for South Carolina. It truly helped us understand the need to transition our workforce. Since then, other global companies have seen the great things our state has to offer. In order to compete globally, we’ve focused on attracting technology-based companies to the state. This starts at the top, with strong leadership in economic development from the governor’s office and the Department of Commerce.

Siemens is promoting manufacturing as a career — one filled with technology, innovation and the ability to make a difference. Right here in South Carolina, Siemens automation is helping BMW produce fine automobiles. We also recently announced a global partnership with Michelin to leverage the performance of its industrial assets.

In the aerospace segment, where South Carolina is experiencing double-digit employment growth, we are helping companies streamline production to meet the demand for a projected 35,000 commercial aircraft in the next 20 years.

Manufacturing will always be about more than what we make, or even what we add to the nation’s gross domestic produce. Our bigger value is our ability to open doors to the middle class and to restore people’s faith in the American dream.

As America becomes a force in the new high-tech, digital and advanced manufacturing industry, jobs will change even more. With more than two million manufacturing jobs openings that could go unfilled due to a shortage of qualified applicants, partnerships such as the one between the University of South Carolina and Siemens are critical to our future.

Mr. Riley is a Columbia-based account manager for Siemens; contact him at doug.riley@siemens.com.