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Boeing touts operations, answers employment questions at Horry County public forum

Workers assemble Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the company's massive assembly plant in North Charleston.
Workers assemble Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the company's massive assembly plant in North Charleston. Associated Press file photo

In a search for more skilled employers, Boeing officials spent Tuesday inspiring area students to join manufacturing programs.

The aerospace giant needs skilled workers for their booming Charleston County manufacturing plant, and Horry Georgetown Technical College hopes they can meet that demand. Boeing officials held a public forum Tuesday to discuss what Boeing S.C. produces and how future employees can meet their demands.

Officials from Coastal Carolina University, city and county government and members of the Horry County Board of Education gathered at the Burroughs and Chapin Auditorium on the Conway campus of HGTC. Members of the public – including high school and college students – were also in attendance to learn about what the aerospace manufacturer needs from future employees.

“We obviously have a very motivated workforce in this state, which is very appealing to a company the size of Boeing,” said Jessica Jackson, who works on community outreach for Boeing.

Eileen Patonay, Waccamaw Regional Education Center coordinator, said it’s important for area students to understand how big manufacturing companies work and what they expect from students. HGTC is developing a “manufacturing pipeline” to get students into machining, welding and technical programs.

Skilled workers are needed for aerospace jobs in the future, Patonay said.

“The opportunities our students saw today were inspiring,” she said. “Students need to know these jobs are out there for them.”

Peg Skalican, campus director of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics in Myrtle Beach, said Tuesday’s event exposed her students to the reality of a manufacturing job. Students need to experience the environment of a plant job in order to better understand how everything works, she said.

Students also need advice from future employers to make their current classes seem relevant.

“They need to hear it from the person who will eventually sign their paycheck to make their lessons relevant,” Patonay added.

Boeing officials met with HGTC representatives in August to discuss the college’s planned advanced manufacturing program.

Earlier this year, the HGTC board approved a $5.8 million budget for a training facility in Conway, which is slated to be finished by the fall of 2016. Four programs will be housed in the center: advanced welding technologies, machine tool, robotics and mechatronics. The school already offers the advanced welding and machine tool programs. The others will begin once the new building is finished. A $7.5 million training center is also planned for the school’s Georgetown campus.

Aimee Berberena, who graduated from HGTC and now attends PIA in Myrtle Beach, said she was excited to hear about the needs of Boeing S.C.

“I want to work for the company and I want to be able to contribute to the community,” Berberena said.

Learning about the company’s future expectations and what exactly the Charleston County plant creates – mostly the Boeing 787 plane – only gave her more excitement for a future manufacturing career.

“It’s something to look forward to,” Berberena said.

Claire Byun: 843-626-0381, @Claire_TSN

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