At last night’s meeting of the Laurens County School District 56 Board of Trustees, Jim Shelton of ZF Transmissions provided a status report for their apprenticeship program. The program is a partnership between ZF, Laurens County School Districts 55 and 56 and Piedmont Technical College. Shelton explained that their ideal candidate for apprenticeship is a good student who is proficient in basic skills such as math, reading comprehension and who enjoys working with their hands. A student who successfully completes the program will earn an associate degree issued by Piedmont Tech, an apprenticeship certificate from the SC Department of Labor, an international apprenticeship certificate issue by the German-American Chamber of Commerce and a preferred slot to interview for a very well-paying job.
Shelton provided some examples of what he meant by well-paying. He said the successful apprentice could expect to start at an annual salary of around $60,000. After a few years that salary could be expected to be in the $70,000 to $85,000 per year range.
He said the constant push for students to earn a college degree had created a shortage of technically proficient workers for companies such as ZF. That gap, he said, could be filled by young people who would stay here as a part of their home community, earn a very good wage and contribute to the local economy.
The apprenticeship program at ZF has 10 students involved: 1 from Ware Shoals High School, 3 from Laurens District High School and 6 from Clinton High School. He said they had just added two more bringing the total to 12. The program will look to bring students into the program as they transition from the 10th to the 11th grade and when fully implemented will graduate 16 students every year.
Mr. Shelton also pointed out that ZF was already making a significant impact on the local economy. He said that recently there was big news about Volvo locating a manufacturing facility in the Charleston area. That factory, he said, represented a $500 million investment. ZF, on the other hand, represents an investment of $1.5 billion….three times the cost of the Volvo plant. And, he pointed out that buying a new Volvo would very likely include purchasing a ZF transmission.