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Greenville Business Magazine

Crawford Strategy and Michelin North America are two firms offering students hands-on learning

By David Dykes

James Phillips has his eyes on landing a job with Greenville-based Michelin North America. And he knows he has been given a good chance to do just that.

For two years, Phillips has studied mechatronics at Midlands Technical College, delving into mechanical and electrical aspects of manufacturing. During that time, he has been working in the Michelin plant in Lexington as part of the tire maker’s technical scholars program, one of the Upstate company’s workforce development initiatives. 

As it stands today, Phillips goes to classes during the day and works at Michelin afterward for 20 hours each week.

“It’s a great opportunity going into it being this young and starting at 20 years old making more money than I’ll know what to do with,” he says of prospects of earning $28 an hour in a full-time job. 

Increasingly, large and smaller companies alike in South Carolina are turning to apprentices and interns to reinforce classroom knowledge with on-the-job training and to recruit workers.

At Crawford Strategy in Greenville, for example, four paid interns this summer are learning the ropes at the marketing agency, working with a 34-member team that includes digital marketing strategists, PR consultants, graphic designers, and copywriters.

Agency officials believe their robust program, including summers and both college semesters, offers interns a “real work” environment.

While Crawford Strategy’s interns come from a variety of colleges, two nationally renowned South Carolina Technical College System programs are contributing to the earn-and-learn effort. 

ReadySC works closely with companies to provide the recruiting and training assistance they need to get up and running. Apprenticeship Carolina helps their workforces continue to grow by guiding the companies through the registered apprenticeship process.

More than 30,000 apprentices have participated in more than 1,000 programs since Apprenticeship Carolina came about in 2007 at the urging of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, says Tim Hardee, president of the technical college system.

“It has been a very successful venture for the state of South Carolina,” Hardee says. “We’ve done a lot of apprenticeships over the years with a lot of the large industries. But the reality is we also have a significant number of smaller industries that still use that apprenticeship model.”

Michelin is among those taking advantage.

Recently, the company recognized seven Lexington-area high school students who, like Phillips, were accepted into the company’s technical scholars program. 

The program partners with Midlands Tech to offer full scholarships to electronic engineering technology and general technology students to provide an opportunity to apply classroom knowledge with hands-on experience in Michelin’s manufacturing operations. 

Michelin provides the technical scholars with free tuition, fees, and books while they complete a skilled technical program at a community college, 20 hours of work per week in a Michelin facility, and eligibility for entry-level employment upon graduation with salary projections around $56,000 or higher. 

In 2018, Michelin launched another program: a youth apprenticeship initiative, with five students with an interest in mechatronics, to expose high school students to advanced manufacturing careers. 

Designed by Michelin’s maintenance training team in collaboration with Greenville County schools, the program provides a pathway for high school students to transition into technical scholars.  

Rising juniors and seniors work alongside a Michelin mentor in the maintenance department while completing courses at a career center. The program launched in Greenville County and will expand to Alabama and Georgia. It was given recent national certification by the U.S. Department of Labor.  

The experience includes a minimum of 2,000 paid hours of on-the-job training with a Michelin mentor in a Michelin manufacturing facility, in addition to 240 hours of customized instruction at a career center. Applicants are evaluated on leadership skills, math and mechanical aptitude, work experience, motivation, and teamwork. 

“Many of the students who have come through this program are now advancing through our organization,” says Michael Williams, facility personnel manager at Greenville-based Michelin North America. “As managers, they are leading major projects for the organization. These scholars starting today are just at the beginning of an entire career.”

At Crawford Strategy, interns are recruited via the agency’s website and recruiting platforms such as Handshake, says Allison Mertens, the agency’s director of corporate growth. Crawford Strategy has had more than 90 interns since it was founded in 2010.

Agency officials look at an applicant’s experience, courses he or she is taking, interests, and attention to detail. A key goal, Mertens says, is to provide significant professional development.

Lauren Stambaugh is among those interning this summer at Crawford Strategy. The Clemson University rising senior, majoring in marketing with a minor in sports communications, says the agency’s full-service strategic marketing approach provides valuable experience as she eyes a career after graduation.

Stambaugh was part of Crawford Strategy’s team that worked with a Greenville-based company, Continental Engines, which was recognized in June as the top distributor in North America from international engine manufacturer Hatz Diesel.

“It’s been huge to me that Crawford has let me touch client projects because I feel like a lot of places don’t put as much trust in their interns to help with their major clients,” she says.