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August 7, 2013

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By Andrea

As a adolescent girl, Winnie Harley acclimated to advice her ancestor boggle with cars in his garage.

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These days, acknowledgment to a training affairs alleged ManuFirst SC, Harley helps anatomy cars at Volvo’s accomplishment campus abreast Ridgeville.

It ability assume like a accustomed progression from backyard adjustment boutique to branch floor, but the adventure has been annihilation but a beeline band for Harley.

“I was a accountant beautician for 30 years,” the Cane Bay citizen said afresh while analytical S60 sedans at the Volvo bulb off Interstate 26. “I ran my own charwoman business for a while and formed at an auto deliver yard. I’ve formed actuality and there. Most of the time I formed two jobs aloof to accomplish ends meet.”

It was Harley’s son who abiding her to booty the 62-hour training program, annoyed of seeing his single-parent mom attempt to accumulate the bills paid.

“He capital me to accept one job and to be blessed in one job,” she said of her son, who died in July. “I apperceive he would be appreciative of area I am now.”

Harley is one of about 80 Volvo workers who’ve landed their jobs through the ManuFirst program — a blast advance for bodies with  an bent for abstruse assignment but no applied accomplishment experience. Graduates of the advance get a affidavit that’s agnate to one year of accomplishment experience, the minimum that’s bare for a job with Volvo.

Automobile genitalia are bogus central the anatomy boutique at the Volvo Cars bulb abreast Ridgeville. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

South Carolina’s abstruse academy arrangement offers the course, with abetment from bounded schools, governments and the accompaniment Commerce Department. The affairs focuses on safety, how to use basal accoutrement and equipment, affection and bendable abilities like assuming up for assignment every day.

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“It’s not aloof about manufacturing,” Kristen Lanier, workforce development administrator for Berkeley County, said during a contempo County Council meeting. “It additionally teaches communication, teamwork and battle management.”

Students charge canyon a biologic analysis and accomplish to 100 percent attendance. The advance doesn’t agreement a job, but abounding of the 1,000 or so Charleston-area association who’ve taken the training over the accomplished 2½ years accept been able to acquisition a job aural the industry.

Originally a way to advice Volvo beef up its workforce in Berkeley County, the generally chargeless or reduced-cost affairs is now accustomed by added than 60 manufacturers statewide, including Sonoco Products, Bridgestone and Mercedes-Benz Vans.

“In the alpha it was targeted carefully to Volvo,” said Barry Jurs, bread-and-butter development administrator for Berkeley County. “But as we’ve gone through the years we’ve accomplished that’s not the alone charge we have.”

A Volvo Cars agent performs a affection analysis during the accumulation action at the company’s accomplishment bulb abreast Ridgeville. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

A abstraction by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce shows added than 6,000 new avant-garde accomplishment jobs will be created regionwide by 2023 — a cardinal that outpaces abstruse academy graduates absorption on such careers by as abounding as 500 annually. The ManuFirst affairs is apparent as one way to advice ample that gap.

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The South Carolina Bread-and-butter Developers Association has put amplification of ManuFirst amid its priorities for the advancing year, with the accumulation lobbying accompaniment legislators to acquisition a constant allotment antecedent for the program. 

Marc Gombeer, Volvo’s bulb manager, sees the affairs as “a appealing acute solution” to the botheration of award a accomplished workforce that’s additionally local.

“There is a charge by Volvo to appoint locally,” Gombeer said, abacus that 90 percent of the plant’s almost 800 accumulation workers appear from South Carolina, three-fourths from the Charleston region. “If you accept to acceptation bodies to run your business, I agnosticism the sustainability of that.”

Gombeer’s career has taken him about the world, from Belgium to Slovakia to China and, finally, to Berkeley County. In every place, he said, there’s a astriction amid the abilities businesses charge and what schools teach. The ManuFirst affairs comes abutting to bridging that gap.

“This helps us to accept bodies who are bigger able for a absolute activity job,” he said.

For abounding of the program’s graduates, it’s actually alteration their lives.

“We aloof had our aboriginal kid about a year ago,” said Dallas Bolen, a affiliate of Volvo’s artefact barrage team. Bolen abutting Volvo afterwards disposed bar at a cardinal of restaurants for 20 years.

“I assuredly met the babe of my dreams in my mid-30s,” Bolen said. “We got affiliated and we capital to accept a adolescent or two, but I didn’t anticipate bartending was the way I capital to accession a family.”

Dallas Bolen abutting Volvo Cars afterwards a 20-year bartending career. A affiliate of the automaker’s artefact barrage team, Bolen said the job accustomed him and his wife to alpha a family. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Bolen said the pay at Volvo is good, the allowances are abundant and he now has affluence of time off, a attenuate article in the accommodation industry.

“To be able to absorb some time with my ancestors and still be financially adequate is a nice perk,” he said.

Jerry Kirkland had been laid off from his aegis job aback his brother told him about ManuFirst classes actuality offered in Berkeley County.

“I capital to acquisition a job that was bigger than security,” he said while demography a breach on the S60 accumulation line. “Usually, to get article like this you accept to booty appropriate classes in academy or accept part-time jobs area you can anatomy up a year or so of training. Because of that program, I got my bottom in the aperture a lot quicker.”

Kirkland brand the pay and the hours, but the better aberration from the added jobs he’s captivated is the teamwork he’s accomplished at Volvo.

“They attending afterwards you and if you hit a problem, they abutment you,” he said of his coworkers. “There’s a able band here.”

Jerry Kirkland works on the S60 auto accumulation band at the Volvo Cars accomplishment bulb in Berkeley County. Kirkland enrolled in the ManuFirst SC training affairs afterwards actuality laid off from a aegis job. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

That brotherhood helped Harley in the months afterwards her son died.

“I can’t acquaint you how abundant adulation and abutment this abode showed,” Harley said. “Without them, I would not accept be able to appear aback to assignment and backpack through anniversary day.

“When you accept the absolute job, you feel like you’re at home. Here, I feel at home.”

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