Horry County Schools, HGTC team up to give welding opportunity to high school seniors

Horry County Schools has partnered with Horry-Georgetown Technical College to give high school seniors with an interest in welding a head start on a job path where demand is growing.

Select students will enter the Technical Scholars program and take their core high school classes along with HGTC courses that will go toward a welding certificate, said Ben Hardee, director of career and technology programs for Horry County Schools. The yearlong program will launch in the fall, beginning with 15 students who will finish their welding courses next summer.

“We don’t have a welding program in our schools, and it’s one of those small niches students are interested in, but we’ve been missing the boat on it,” Hardee said. “We thought we may only get five kids at first, but let’s go with it.”

HGTC expanded its welding program last year after companies verified the need for welders and for industrial technicians who need welding skills. The Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. also is actively recruiting businesses that will need a skilled workforce, such as Accent Stainless Steel, a company from Vancouver, Canada, that plans to build its U.S. headquarters in Loris.

“We have recruited some of those companies, and as we recruit more, there will be more welding, manufacturing, tool and die jobs,” said Fred Richardson, chairman of the board for the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp.

School district officials first met about the program in February and got the word to students through high school guidance counselors. Hardee said there are more than 15 students who want to explore the program, and school officials will be meeting over the next few weeks with the students and their parents to gauge their interest and to work out the logistics of fitting welding into their regular schedule and transportation.

Technical Scholars will be a continuing program, costing the district about $62,000 next year, and will give an advantage to students who can make use of the skill as much as the certification, Hardee said.

“We have a student who wants to be an engineer and is very academic-oriented, but he realizes with engineering, it would help help him to have that skill,” he said. “Later on, if he’s working in that area, he’ll already know what can and can’t be done.”

Marilyn Fore, HGTC senior vice president, said she is excited about this venture, which will help those students land a job more quickly. She said over the next few months, she will explore the possibility of creating the same type of program in Georgetown County that she hopes will begin in 2015.