April began with the kickoff of the Upstate Regional Education Center’s (REC) “Dream It, Do It” campaign at the Union County Advanced Technology Center. The campaign is designed to address the growing shortage of talented and skilled workers in US manufacturing by changing perceptions about manufacturing and the careers is offers. Upstate REC plans to achieve its goal through increasing STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — education in schools and creating stronger business partnerships with the education community.
Less than two weeks later, ESAB Welding & Cutting Products announced it will establish a 250,000-square-foot state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Union County. The company will invest $19.3 million in the facility which will manufacture its line of MIG and Sub Arc welding wire. The facility, which is expected to begin production by the end of this year, will generate 101 jobs with the potential for more in the future.
Union County Development Board Director Andrena Powell-Baker said it best when, in welcoming ESAB’s decision, she said the county is working to attract companies like ESAB that pay high wages and benefits. Powell-Baker said she was confident ESAB would be around for a long time providing job opportunities for the people of Union County. She said the county is looking forward to helping ESAB reach its goal of being recognized as the world’s welding and cutting authority.
Yes, we are looking forward to helping ESAB realize it goal and, in the process, continuing to provide job opportunities — and high wages and benefits — for the people of this county for many years to come. The best way to do that is to ensure ESAB — and companies like it — access to a steady, local supply of workers with the skills and training needed to work in modern, high-tech manufacturing. The way to do that is by increasing STEM education in our schools and creating stronger business partnerships with the education community as outlined by Upstate REC.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are the foundation of our increasingly high-tech, knowledge-driven economy. Communities who understand this and embrace STEM education will thrive in this economy and attract the ESABs of the world and the jobs and investment they bring. They will be the ones whose schools produce the trained and skilled workers needed by the high-tech manufacturers of today and tomorrow and as a result they will enjoy and continue to enjoy the success and opportunities for futher success those companies bring with them.
Union County can be one of those communities but only if its schools are filled with STEMS that produce an annual bumper harvest of graduates with the trainining and skills that will attract high-tech employers like ESAB to this county and keep them here. Knowledge is the key to success of companies like ESAB and communities like Union County and that success begins, as it always has, in the schools.