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The Agurban

#694 – From Dual Enrollers to High Rollers? ZF Apprenticeship Delivers High-Paying Jobs for Those with the Right Stuff

Jul 10, 2018

A proactive maintenance apprentice program among partners Piedmont Technical College (PTC), Laurens County Development Corporation (LCDC), Laurens County School Districts 55 and 56, and ZF Transmissions in Gray Court is making the opportunity to be earning upwards of $60,000 a year within three years of graduation available to qualified Laurens County high school students.

ZF’s 1.5 million-square-foot advanced manufacturing facility produces 8- and 9-speed automatic transmissions for passenger cars. In a partnership with PTC and two public school districts in Laurens County, ZF launched the apprenticeship program modeled after successful ZF apprenticeships in Germany.

The three-year program is not for commitment-phobes. Apprentices are required to complete 4,000 hours of on-the-job training in addition to their coursework. High school students in the program take their technical classes at the PTC Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) in Laurens, train part-time at the plant, and finish other coursework at their high school. After successfully completing the program, students receive an associate degree from Piedmont Tech and have an opportunity for full-time employment as a maintenance technician.

“We offer tours of the plant and remind parents that we are going to pay 100 percent of their child’s college,” Robbie Ellis, apprenticeship supervisor at ZF, explained. “We point out that, when students complete the program, they will start full-time at $60,000 a year just three years out of high school. A lot of times that message resonates with parents.”

Ellis said that ZF’s apprenticeship program continues to develop and grow. Gray Court-based ZF officials will visit their sister plant and world headquarters in Germany this summer to evaluate their apprenticeship program there.

“The Germans have pretty much perfected the apprenticeship,” he said. “And we will continue to improve our program.”

Apprenticeship programs across South Carolina are proliferating rapidly as local employers realize their potential and return on investment.

Agracel is pleased to count ZF as a valued client, as we provide a long-term lease to ZF for a manufacturing and warehousing facility adjacent to their 1.5 million-square-foot advanced manufacturing plant in Gray Court. Congratulations to ZF and Laurens County on putting together a program that will could and should serve as a model to other communities!