By Keith Miller
President, Greenville Technical College
Have you ever wondered how colleges develop new degrees and programs? For two-year colleges, new offerings are directly tied to employer needs. Our role is to make sure that the companies in our community have the educational options available to access a skilled workforce. When those employers have an unmet need, we create an answer.
That’s how Greenville Technical College’s applied baccalaureate in advanced manufacturing technology came to be. The need for this educational option was voiced by some of our area’s strongest manufacturing employers including Michelin, GE, and Bosch Rexroth. The first step toward offering the degree was legislative approval. In June, the South Carolina House and Senate passed a bill allowing us to move forward with the curriculum. Last week, Gov. Henry McMaster signed the bill, a critical step forward for our state. Now, Greenville Technical College is seeking necessary approvals from the state Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education, the Commission on Higher Education, and our accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Soon, we expect to have the program up and running, allowing companies in our area to grow and succeed.
We are not the first state to offer applied baccalaureates. In fact, two-year colleges in 19 states are currently providing this option, and several other states are somewhere in the approval process. Altogether, 90 community colleges across the nation are offering about 900 baccalaureate programs.
The degree we will offer does not duplicate anything offered by a four-year institution in South Carolina and is very different from traditional bachelor’s degrees offered on four-year campuses. Our degree is technical in focus with a project-based curriculum. Learning will be active, engaging, and hands-on.
The applied baccalaureate in advanced manufacturing will benefit the companies that require this level of education and the graduates who will be ready to assume technical and managerial leadership positions in our growing global manufacturing economy. This degree is designed for those currently working in technical manufacturing positions and looking for a way to advance and for those seeking to enter the high-tech manufacturing industry.
At Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation, students will gain hands-on skills using manufacturing equipment including a five-axis machining center, fully automated manufacturing systems, robotics, additive manufacturing technology, industrial hydraulics, pneumatics, and mechanical systems. They will have the opportunity to participate in industry-led collaborative research projects as part of their education. Through these experiences, students will build portfolios that document mastery of teamwork and application of new and emerging technologies to real-world manufacturing problems.
Manufacturing is leading South Carolina’s strong economy. Total output from manufacturing was $35.16 billion in 2016. There were 239,500 manufacturing employees in the state, working for 3,400 firms. The S.C. Department of Commerce reports that 59,000 new manufacturing jobs were announced in the state from 2011 to 2017. Our mission is to provide people to fill those jobs, transforming graduates’ lives and their families’ futures in the process.
As we move ahead with the approvals needed to offer an applied baccalaureate degree in advanced manufacturing technology, we are grateful to our leaders in state government for their foresight in bringing educational offerings up to speed with current needs. We are very fortunate in South Carolina to enjoy a strong economy. By meeting the needs of employers and giving the people of our state access to opportunity, we can expect that strength to continue.
Keith Miller is president of Greenville Technical College, past chairman of the board for the American Association of Community Colleges, and a former member of the board for the American Council on Education.