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As airlines around the world work to address the demands of a global economy by expanding fleets and adjusting flight schedules, the industry is also seeking solutions to address the challenges of building a highly-skilled workforce to support the rapid growth.

In its 2015 Pilot and Technical Outlook, Boeing predicts that over the next 20 years, the aviation industry will need to add more than one million new personnel to the industry. According to Boeing, over 60% of those positions will need to be maintenance technicians—the individuals who repair and maintain aircraft and are responsible for inspections mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The advancements in aviation and manufacturing technologies have resulted in aircraft that are far more reliable and capable of long-lasting operation, but the trends in fleet growth have and will continue to drive demand for more qualified technicians, especially as planes are pushed to their limits to accommodate busy flight schedules and airlines rely on local maintenance and repair operations (MRO).

Like many industries, the need to fill workforce demands in the aerospace sector does not come without challenges.  One of the major issues the industry is facing, especially when it comes to maintenance technicians, is an aging workforce. According to some reports, 0.7 people will retire for each new person entering the aviation industry by 2050.

To combat a workforce that does not appear to be on pace to meet future demands, the industry has to rely on resources that can properly attract and train the next generation of maintenance technicians—and do so at a level that ensure that they are skilled and properly qualified to work on today’s high-tech aircraft.

Upstate South Carolina is working to assist in these efforts. The region is home to several technical colleges focused on serving the needs of the industry, including Greenville Technical College.

(Students in Greenville Tech's AMT program gain hands-on experience with working aircraft. Photo credit: Fred Rollison Photography)

Aviation leaders like Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, Stevens Aviation, General Electric, Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, and others depend heavily on Greenville Tech’s Aircraft Maintenance Technology (AMT) program to fill their workforce pipeline. Greenville Tech’s AMT program is a FAA and Veterans Administration-approved associated degree program that provides students with the technical and academic skills necessary to become certified aircraft maintenance technicians.

Working with local aerospace suppliers in the Upstate and global aviation leaders allows Greenville Tech to house an impressive inventory of actual aircraft and related equipment, ensuring students are able to master the skills needed in the modern workforce. Greenville Tech is also working with Clemson University to create an innovative, virtual inspection laboratory, which will provide simulated “hands on” experience in the classroom.

Additionally, Greenville Tech’s partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University gives students who have graduated from the AMT program an opportunity to explore expanded educational opportunities in the field.

Greenville Tech is one of several technical colleges in the region focused on workforce development. These technical colleges work hand-in-hand with affiliate programs like,  readySC™, Apprenticeship Carolina™  and QuickJobs Carolina™, so aerospace companies located in the area can take full advantage of the extensive education and training network.

The success of workforce development in the Upstate will get an even bigger boost beginning in 2016. Earlier this year, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill into law to eliminate the state sales tax on owner-operator aircraft parts (effective at the beginning of 2016, making South Carolina more attractive for aviation MRO. Now, MRO’s located in South Carolina, including Greenville-based Stevens Aviation, one of the largest MROs in the Southeast, can effectively compete to provide maintenance services for growing industry.

So as the aviation industry continues to take off, so too does Upstate South Carolina’s commitment to ensuring that the sector has an ever-growing labor force—one that will continue to feed the success of businesses throughout the industry.

Want more information on the aerospace industry in Upstate South Carolina?

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Upstate South Carolina is a region that has always prided itself on its reputation for a dedicated, hard-working labor force. From the textile mills of decades past, to the manufacturing facilities found throughout the Upstate today, the workforce has been the key driver in the success of the 10-county region of Southwest South Carolina.

While the impressive output of the Upstate’s workforce has never changed, the profile of the typical employee has dramatically evolved. Visit any of the Upstate’s 1,800-plus manufacturing facilities and you will see a highly-advanced, high tech facility operated by a skilled workforce, proficient in robotics, engineering and other expertise.

Those currently involved in manufacturing, including businesses in Upstate South Carolina, understand that in order to keep up with the rapid technological changes in manufacturing, there needs to be a significant investment in building the next generation workforce.

As part of National Manufacturing Day, an annual event during which North American manufacturers open their doors to showcase the potential of modern manufacturing and foster interest in manufacturing careers, we take a look at how Upstate South Carolina is working to build tomorrow’s manufacturing workforce.

Manufacturing Booms in South Carolina, Upstate

Manufacturing is big business in South Carolina. Recent numbers show that nearly $25 billion of the state's gross state product (GSP) comes from manufacturing, representing almost 21% of South Carolina's entire GDP. 

Home to more than 5,200 companies involved in the manufacturing sector, including industry leaders such as BMW, Michelin, Fujifilm, Boeing and more, South Carolina has caught the world's attention when it comes to modern manufacturing. The state and Upstate region is recognized throughout the industry as one of the top places for doing business, thanks in part to offering manufacturers access to a top-ranked business climate, world-class research environment and a superb quality of life. 

“The Upstate’s pro-business approach and ‘can-do’ attitude is also unwavering," said Lewis Gossett, President & CEO, South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, in a recent Q&A. "Public and private leadership in the Upstate makes things happen and functions as a team better than almost any other area that I’m aware of.”

Those factors are helping the state to attract and retain business at record levels, specifically in the Upstate. Since 2010, Upstate South Carolina has announced more than $9.9 billion in capital investment. That includes over $4.56 billion since the beginning of 2014. 

Creating a Work-ready Labor Pool

While the Upstate's business climate plays a major role in the region's success in manufacturing, what truly drives the region's manufacturing sector is its ability to provide a qualified, highly-trained workforce. Of the state of South Carolina's 234,000-plus manufacturing jobs, over 102,000 are found in the 10-county Upstate region. In the past five years alone, the Upstate has announced nearly 26,000 new jobs--most of which come from manufacturing. 

While the Upstate's current workforce is contributing to a highly successful manufacturing sector, equally impressive is the region's commitment to developing effective workforce development programs. The Upstate is served by several national-recognized technical schools focused on serving the needs of local manufacturers. The innovative programs provide students with advanced technical training, ensuring they are work-ready upon graduation. Each of the technical schools works hand-in-hand with South Carolina's technical college system affiliate programs like readySC and Apprenticeship Carolina so companies locating in the area can take full advantage of an extensive education and training network.

In the Upstate, colleges and universities work closely with area industries to develop innovative training opportunities to produce a workforce that meets the current and future needs of modern manufacturers. 

Building Tomorrow’s Workforce Starts Today

The Upstate's workforce development programs don't just start by addressing the needs of individuals looking to enter the workforce today. Industry leaders throughout the region have demonstrated a commitment to educating students at a very early age about the range of career opportunities in modern manufacturing--and changing the perception of what a job in manufacturing looks like.

To help attract tomorrow's workforce, educators and industry leaders are also collaborate in the classroom, working directly with students on projects found in advanced manufacturing. For example, Greenville-based Sage Automotive Interiors, a leading automotive interior manufacturers, partners with Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School, a new Greenville County School focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM), on a year-long mentorship program that included a project to design a car interior for the driver of tomorrow.

The Upstate’s commitment to building tomorrow’s workforce extends out of the classroom as well. Earlier this year, leaders throughout the region came together to organize iMAGINE Upstate, a week-long crowd-program that promoted cultural and economic development with a celebration and showcase of STEM, innovation and entrepreneurial activity in Upstate South Carolina. The event culminated with a festival in downtown Greenville which drew more than 14,000 people.

As Upstate South Carolina’s manufacturing sector continues to grow, so will the region’s investment in building today and tomorrow’s workforce.

For more information on workforce development in Upstate South Carolina, visit


Read More on the Blog

Looking at the Future of STEM: A Q&A with CU-ICAR Automotive Engineering Instructor Dee Kivett 

Sage Automotive and Fisher Middle School Celebrate Successful Collaboration Program 

Read any industry piece on workforce development and the apparent challenges of filling the skills gap and you’ll see experts stressing the importance of companies, especially in manufacturing and engineering, having hands-on involvement in their local education centers. The logic behind this strategy is a sound one, suggesting that if companies can reach tomorrow’s workforce at an early age, they can open their minds to the world of advanced manufacturing and inspire them to take an educational path that will lead them to a successful career. This strategy often focuses on the promotion of curriculums around science, arts, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) with the idea that manufactures will work hand-in-hand with local schools to create engaging programs that offer real-world insight.

During a panel discussion on workforce development at the 2015 S.C. Automotive Summit held in Greenville, Dr. Keith Miller, President of Greenville Technical College even stated, “Collaboration is the key to success. We have to have industry representatives, including manufacturers, in the classroom.”

In that same discussion, Sky Foster, Department Manager for Corporate Communications at BMW, added, “There is a new learner and we have to engage that new learner. There is no one size fits all. We have to learn to compete. If we don't learn to compete, we die. We have to keep the practices of new innovation coming in.”

While just about everyone agrees with this concept, the reality is that very few are actually putting it into practice. Many manufacturers participate in career days or one-off showcases for students, but there is a lack of sustainable programs that are mutually beneficial (and enjoyable) for both sides.

Fortunately, that is not the case in Upstate South Carolina, and a great example of real-world collaboration is Sage Automotive Interiors’ involvement in the Mentor Program at Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School.

Based in Greenville and located near the Clemson University Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School provides students will unique STEAM-based learning experiences that put them in the right direction regarding career choices through partnerships with local businesses and agencies.

A Fresh Approach

This past school year, Fisher Middle School launched its mentor program to provide students with an opportunity to learn about a STEAM career that interests them. Sage Automotive Interiors, one of the world’s leading designers, engineers and manufacturers of automotive bodycloth, was one of 12 companies that took part in the inaugural program, joining Fluor, CU-ICAR, Michelin, Hubbell Lighting and others.

(Students at Fisher Middle School were tasked with managing a budget for a design project for the drivers of tomorrow)

“We did research to see what other programs were out there and what was working,” says Matthew Critell, Program Director at Fisher Middle School. “We found that companies were eager to participate in these programs, but didn’t know how to do it. The traditional setting would be for them to come in for a day or a couple of hours, do a small project and then move on. Obviously, that doesn’t create the lasting impression needed to inspire. We realized we needed something different so rather that duplicating other programs, we built one from the ground up.”

Fisher Middle School’s mentor program kicked off in the fall with a mentor fair—similar to the format of a career fair—during which representatives from Sage Automotive and other participating companies had to work to “recruit” students from Fisher’s sixth grade class to select them as the company they wanted to work with.

Once the mentor groups were determined, Fisher Middle worked with the partnering companies to develop projects that would reflect real-world scenarios for their industry. The mentoring company met with their group of students four times during the academic year to work on the project.

Critell and the team at Sage Automotive Interiors knew that for their project to be successful, they needed to get students to understand the many different roles that come into play in modern manufacturing. Together, they came up with a project scenario that various factors involved in automotive design.

The Project: Planning for Tomorrow’s Driver

The scenario presented to Fisher students was as follows:

The auto industry is constantly changing. To assist Sage Automotive in staying current with the needs of tomorrow’s drivers, it is looking to incorporate a younger generation into its workforce that can help them plan for the drivers of the future. There are many components to designing a car, and some of them are all done behind the scenes. Your team is expected to:

  • Look at the characteristics of today’s automobile interiors. What features do you like and dislike? What advancements can be made to make the interiors more durable?
  • Create a profile for your generation and imagine the look and design that your future self would like to see in an automobile. What type of fabric, colors, accents, and customizable features would you like to see in the first car you drive?
  • This job requires multiple teams to accomplish this project: Design Team, Research, Financial, and Management. Your job is to determine which role you want to play in this process.

Susan Mizelle, Business Manager at Sage Automotive Interiors, led the company’s mentor team in working with the students. They tasked the students with creating a profile and interior design to meet the needs of tomorrow’s drivers.

“We wanted to give students perspective on the various types of careers found in our industry so we broke the project down into different job functions, including research and design, finance and management,” says Mizelle. “Equally important was creating a project that forced these different groups to work together for one common goal.”

(As part of the design process, the team at Sage Automotive helped students create "Mood Boards" to help profile target customers of their automobiles)

Students worked closely with the team at Sage Automotive Interiors to stay within a budget and develop materials the company often uses in its own designs, including “mood boards” which offered insight into the lifestyle of the target customer for their project cars. Working together, they eventually narrowed down their choice of fabric for each car’s interior, which Sage Automotive Interior presented affixed to a car seat in the final session.

The Results

“The students were incredibly engaged throughout the entire process,” says Mizelle. “Going in, I’ll admit that we had some concerns about keeping the students interested, but I thought the participation was great. We had one student in our group whose father actually works in our manufacturing facility and he told us it was great to get a better understanding of what is dad does. Hearing that certainly reinforced the concept that we need to continue to look for new ways to get tomorrow’s workforce engaged now. It’s one thing to hear about a career choice, but nothing will ever compare to getting hands-on experience.”

“I think the reason this was such a success was because it was student-driven,” says Critell. “From the beginning, the students chose to work with Sage Automotive Interiors. They chose the project they wanted to work on; they chose the group they wanted to be in; they chose the fabric they wanted in the car. At the same time, companies like Sage Automotive Interiors were heavily invested in the program. The team at Sage was a big part in helping us take this far beyond our expectations.”

The success of the inaugural mentor program at Fisher Middle will carry on as the school and partners like Sage Automotive Interiors work to develop programs at the 7th and 8th grade levels.

For more information on Sage Automotive Interiors, visit For more information on Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School and how to participate in the Mentor Program, visit or email Matthew Critell at  

Learn more about workforce development and educational centers in Upstate South Carolina at

A recent report from the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings demonstrates that Greenville Technical College ranks as one of the national leaders in value at two-year educational institutions. The report, “Beyond College Rankings: A Value-Added Approach to Assessing Two- and Four-Year Institutions” offers insight into the quality of colleges by measuring the institutions contributions towards future economic success by using a blend of government and private data sources, including LinkedIn and PayScale.

The report took into consideration a number of metrics to determine quality, including curriculum value, percent graduating in STEM-related fields, retention rates, instructional staff and financial aid.

Greenville Tech scored among the nation’s best two-year colleges in terms of value with respect to mid-career earnings and occupational earning power of graduates.

Greenville Technical College is one of the largest public two-year colleges in South Carolina. The college offers technical courses, certificates, diplomas and associate degrees in business, computer technology, health sciences, engineering technologies, industrial technologies, and public service. Greenville Tech also provides an extensive offering of continuing education courses for occupational advancement and personal interest, as well as economic development services that encourage business and industrial growth in a diverse economic community.

To read the full Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program report on college rankings, visit

For more information on educational resources in Upstate South Carolina, visit

The national economy has continued to experience steady growth and with more companies electing to do business in the U.S., there is a growing need for highly skilled labor to meet the demand for American-made goods. In fact, recent executive surveys by Area Development magazine have shown that the availability of skilled labor has become the No. 1 factor in site selection.

The state of South Carolina ranks atop many lists as one of the best in the nation when it comes to filling that need thanks to training programs like readySC and Apprenticeship Carolina, and here in Upstate South Carolina, our pipeline of 30+ institutions of higher learning helps produce a high concentration of architectural and engineering talent, mechatronic specialists, team assemblers and metal workers, and machinists and fabricators.

While the region continues to prosper from our reputation for producing highly-skilled labor, industry leaders in Upstate South Carolina understand the critical need to foster the growth of the next generation workforce. The foundation for tomorrow’s workforce starts with the advancement of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, which prepares students for the modern workplaces of the present and future.

To help students understand how STEM-related skills can be applied in a number of exciting ways, a collective group of Upstate South Carolina leaders have created an innovative way to showcase the world of STEM. iMAGINE Upstate is a weeklong series of crowd-sourced programs and signature events designed to promote cultural and economic development with a celebration and showcase of STEM, innovation and entrepreneurial activity in Upstate South Carolina. The program will kick off on March 28th, 2015 with the CU-ICAR 2nd Annual Millennium Drive Car & Cruise and will capstone with a family-friendly festival in downtown Greenville on Saturday, April 4th, 2015.

iMAGINE Upstate was created to generate ‘Aha’ moments that will inspire students in South Carolina,” said Ryan Heafy, Executive Director of iMAGINE Upstate. “With over half of the STEM-related workforce reaching retirement in the next five to ten years, it is critical that we have skilled employees ready to fill the demand.”

(S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley talks about iMAGINE Upstate's innovative approach to ‎education through STEM and entrepreneurship in South Carolina.)


Together with partners such as Duke Energy, Michelin, Bosch, Greenville Technical College, BMW, Tri-County Technical College and more, iMAGINE Upstate will work to educate students, families and young professionals about the opportunities available in STEM-related work fields and drive sustainable change in our educational system by igniting an interest in STEM programs outside of the classroom. 

“Every dollar we contribute to education is an investment in the future of the Upstate,” said Clark Gillespy, president for South Carolina for Duke Energy, the largest electrical power holding company in the United States. “Supporting effective education programs and initiatives that emphasize STEM is a critical focus for Duke Energy. We are proud to be part of this exciting venture with iMAGINE Upstate and look forward to seeing firsthand students get excited about energy, math and science. Programs like this lay the foundation for our future leaders in these fields.”

“As an industry, it is our collective task to spark an interest in science and technology among students at a young age, and nurture this interest as they grow,” said Mike Mansuetti, president of Robert Bosch LLC. “The iMAGINE Upstate events bring innovation, creativity and science to South Carolina families, and Bosch is excited to share in the celebration.”

The week-long celebration will feature a number of crowd-sourced programs, workshops, presentations, competitions and events, each designed to support iMAGINE Upstate’s six core program tracks—learn, engage, create, innovate, launch and make.

The festival, running from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 4th, will include more than 50 tents lining Main Street in downtown Greenville in addition to several featured stages, including:

  • Robotics Demo at the Bosch INNOVATE Stage 
  • Roper Mountain Science Center Show at the GE Power & Water ENGAGE Stage 
  • Brooks Brothers Workforce of the Future Fashion Show at the Fluor CREATE Stage 
  • AJ Whittenburg Hovercraft Experience at the Greenville Technical College LEARN Stage 
  • The Children's Museum of the Upstate Experience at the Michelin MAKE Stage 
  • The iMAGINE Challenge: An Interactive Game Show at the iMAGINE Upstate LAUNCH Stage 


“Being part of iMAGINE Upstate is more than participating in a festival,” said Leesa Owens, community relations representative for Michelin North America. “This is a chance to invest in the Upstate and our students. We want to inspire the next generation of designers, engineers and innovators.”

To further the conversation and create growing interest in STEM and innovation, iMAGINE Upstate has also launched a student awareness campaign entitled “You Decide.” Student and industry leaders can participate by using the hashtag “#Udecide” on social media.

To learn more about the iMAGINE Upstate and the upcoming festival, visit

Those interested in volunteering for the downtown festival can sign up at

Read More about STEM in Upstate South Carolina:

Looking at the Future of STEM: A Q&A with CU-ICAR Automotive Engineering Instructor Dee Kivett

How We Should Imagine the Future of STEM Education


With 30-plus institutions of higher learning, programs like iMAGINE Upstate and resources such as the NEXT High School, Upstate South Carolina continues to serve as a center for the advancement of STEM education.

Today on the blog, we get a few minutes with Dee Kivett, Automotive Engineering Instructor at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) and CEO of NextGen Supply Chain Integrators, to discuss the future of STEM education.


What does the future of STEM education look like? What should it look like?

“Education as a whole will become more hands-on and project-based, integrating traditional liberal arts thinking into problem solving exercises that emphasize technology. I personally do not see America losing focus on the classics as we look for ways to improve our STEM education techniques, but rather instead we will build on it as a strength. What makes America unique is our ability to INNOVATE. Kids in successful education programs will learn how to solve problems and have the opportunity to use technology solutions to do so.  They will also be able to market and communicate their innovations through strong foundations in traditional liberal arts studies including art, English, humanities, and public speaking.”

“New education programs like NEXT High School in Greenville, S.C. are adopting this project-based learning philosophy. At CU-ICAR, every class we teach has a hands-on project component.  In my class at CU-ICAR, project teams learn the foundations of project management through a new product development project.  By the end of the course, not only have they realized their new idea from concept through prototype validation, they have about 90% of their patent application complete! This technique not only promotes an integrated approach to different disciplines, but it also simply makes learning more interesting and fun for students!”

What are the current challenges facing STEM education centers?

“Money is the obvious easy answer. Many hands-on projects and technology-based learning opportunities are expensive. The community has done a great job of helping offset this challenge through shared learning resources like that of the Roper Mountain Science Center. Also, many organizations and companies are beginning to volunteer their time and resources to provide project mentorship in the schools and bring those resources to the students. “

“Additionally, teachers need opportunities for continuing education. We need to provide them affordable learning opportunities so they can stay on top of the latest technologies as well. One way to also help offset this is to remove expectations that one teacher should be an expert in every subject, especially in the lower grades. Having science specialists who visit multiple classrooms is one economical way to accomplish this. In the upper grades, giving students the opportunity to attend STEM-focus centers where equipment may be shared with other schools is a great way to accomplish the goal of optimizing the resources available.”

How can manufacturing/businesses become more involved in STEM education?

“Businesses can contribute money, time for their employees to serve as volunteers, equipment, and learning opportunities for teachers. Businesses must also acknowledge the importance of skilled trades workers with fair and equitable pay for the contribution they make to the organization, making STEM-related careers more appealing.”

What skills must the modern labor force have? Why?

“Problem solving, innovation, self-motivation, and personal responsibility are all key to success today just as they have been from the beginning of time. Today, however, people require higher levels of literacy and understanding of a diversity of cultures in order to interact with an increasingly global workforce. Computer and financial literacy are a basic requirement today, whereas they may have been optional in the past. The labor force as a whole needs more people who know how to do things.  We need those who are not afraid to build things with their hands, the ones who do not sit and wait for someone to tell them step by step how to do a task but instead figure it out for themselves.”

What can manufacturers and educational centers do to make students interested in manufacturing?

“To me, this is a question better presented to society as a whole. In recent decades, the ‘skilled trades’ job has somehow slipped down the societal perception ranking to somehow be seen as less desirable than a four-year university degree. Consequently, parents all encourage their students to go to the four year university. For many students, they do this without any idea of what they ultimately want to do in life. They get degrees that are empty of any real applicable skills or otherwise too generic to prepare them for real-working experiences, and leave them ultimately unable to find work. Who would have imagined a day that students graduating with master’s degrees would have to depend on working the elevator at a tourist resort as their only job opportunity?“

“With an overpopulation of students with advanced degrees but no real-work experience, we have a tremendous shortage of skilled trade workers. Without machinists, welders, electricians and the like, we cannot have a thriving manufacturing industry. Society as a whole will need to shift its perception of “success” for our young people before this tide will turn. We need to praise, promote, and reward those who are graduating directly into the workforce with valuable technical skills and elevate the social perception of those jobs before students will start becoming drawn to those fields.”

For more information on education in Upstate South Carolina, visit  

Read more about STEM initiatives in the region on the blog at 

Monday marked yet another milestone in the Upstate’s mission to provide the automotive, transportation, and other high-tech sectors with a highly-skilled workforce with the groundbreaking of the Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI), a $25 million collaboration between Clemson University and Greenville Technical College.

Local and state officials, including Governor Nikki Haley, several Upstate advanced manufacturers, Greenville County Council, and other leaders, attended Monday’s groundbreaking.

While the Upstate already has a strong pipeline for developing a modern day labor force, the primary goal of the CMI is to further increase the number of skilled workers available to Upstate manufacturers, helping to close the skills gap many manufacturers may face.

Per the official press release announcing the groundbreaking:

“The Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) will be located at the Millennium Campus adjacent to the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) Technology Neighborhood 1, offering education designed to meet industry needs including dual credit programs in partnership with Greenville County Schools, programs that allow a student to move from associate degree to bachelor’s degree, and workforce training and certificate programs that increase the qualifications of manufacturing employees.

The CMI will provide for deeper integration with the K-12 sector, with options for coursework starting in K-12 that will transition to GTC and then to Clemson. Modularized instruction will allow additional flexibility in entry and exit points. A Manufacturing Honors College is expected to be the first of its kind. In addition, students will benefit from internships and apprenticeships, allowing students to gain practical experience working alongside experienced engineers, faculty, and staff.

The location of CMI along with the partnership with Clemson University will provide for joint learning opportunities between associate and graduate level students. Project based instruction will mimic current manufacturing scenarios when engineering technicians and engineers must work side by side to solve problems critical to advanced manufacturing processes.

The center will engage K-12 students and show them the possibilities that exist in advanced manufacturing careers through dual enrollment programs, tours, camps, and open houses. The Center for Manufacturing Innovation will be designed, literally, to change negative perceptions about manufacturing, with architectural features that engage from the first moment. The entryway will provide observation points where a visitor can view simulated advanced manufacturing environments, and interactive displays will educate and entertain.”

(Governor Nikki Haley speaks at the groundbreaking for the Center for Manufacturing Innovation - image courtesy of Ken Osburn Photography/Greenville Technical College)


For more information on the workforce in Upstate South Carolina, visit For more information on the Center for Manufacturing Innovation, visit

Clemson University automotive engineering graduate student and champion of STEM education named university’s first Bosch Fellow Monday

As employers worldwide are coping with significant talent shortages, German engineering company Bosch is combating the manufacturing industry’s shortage of a skilled workforce with an eye toward the future, inspiring the next generation workforce with the Bosch Community Fund (BCF) and fellowship program.

South Carolina –based Clemson University is realizing the impact of the program after Mike Mansuetti, President of Robert Bosch, LLC , pledged $500,000 for Clemson’s automotive-engineering fellowships and named automotive engineering graduate student Vismita Sonagra as Clemson’s first Bosch fellow on Monday.  

As part of this fellowship, Sonagra received $20,000 to support her work at local elementary and middle schools, where she participates in activities that focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Mansuetti is confident in the positive impact of STEM education on tomorrow’s workforce, as quoted in Clemson University’s news release:

“Vismita and her classmates represent the workforce of the future. She is well on her way, and we are excited by the potential of those who will follow in her footsteps in the future. Together, Bosch and Clemson will help move students into STEM-related careers and help individuals reach their full potential. We see tremendous opportunities now and in the future for students with a strong STEM background.”

Recruiting and keeping students in the STEM fields is a national problem raising concerns that a significant portion of the population could be neglecting some of the country’s fastest-growing and highest-paying job opportunities. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16% of high school students are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career. Bosch funding will help develop and inform students about the opportunities available in STEM fields.

Other STEM initiatives are beginning to gain footing in the Upstate, including A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School of Engineering, South Carolina’s first engineering and technology elementary which opened in 2009.  The school focuses on developing critical thinking and communication skills and fostering creativity through engineering, team work and technology. Industry partners include Fluor, GE Energy, Hubbell Lighting and Michelin who provide a variety of support, including hands-on learning opportunities.

Middle and high schools in the Upstate have also implemented new curriculum with a focus on project-based learning programs that will prepare students for the subject matter and soft-skills they’ll need in college and their careers. Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School opened in August on the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) Millennium campus, offering opportunities for CU-ICAR students to visit the school and collaborate with young students —one of the core reasons the Bosch Fellowship was designed.

Imtiaz Haque, founding chair of the Clemson University automotive engineering department and executive director of the Carroll A. Campbell Graduate Engineering Center at CU-ICAR commented:

“She [Sonagra] is the first of what will be many fellows who will help keep America competitive in the 21st century. The Bosch endowment helps us attain two major goals, namely bringing exceptional talent to the automotive engineering program and creating an exceptional talent pool for the STEM fields that are so critical to our future success as a nation.”

Bosch operates in nearly 50 countries, with more than 30 locations in the U.S., including three in the Upstate of South Carolina. In addition to the Bosch endowment, the company has partnered with Clemson University for a cooperative education program since 2000.

A standing-room-only crowd gathered in Greenville at SCBIO Live on November 9 and 10. The aim was to learn and collaborate to continue the steady expansion of South Carolina's life sciences ecosystem.The event was full of practical takeaways for industry practitioners, from research and collaboration to funding and product development. Several broader takeaways from the general session offered a positive outlook for those with an eye on economic development. Here are five to keep in mind:

1. Life Sciences are South Carolina's Next Big Bet

Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt opened a discussion with an overview of how South Carolina has made concerted, collaborative efforts to build up other sectors such as automotive and logistics. He called life sciences "one of our next great sectors," saying it has a jumpstart that others did not have because of the existing SCBIO organization.

Hitt said the benefits of the SC Automotive Council are reflected in 17 percent growth in manufacturing since 2011. Following that model, earlier this year the Commerce Department earlier this year signed a contract officially partnering with SCBIO to grow the life sciences industry. SCBIO Live speakers pointed out that life sciences in particular helped reinvent the city of Pittsburgh, and have been keeping Houston afloat amid the slump in oil revenues.

2. Small Size Makes Big Impact

The state's small size creates a tighter web of connection that makes it easier to both identify and solve problems. It also helps to reduce bureaucracy and keep the system as agile as possible, which businesses in the sector crave.

Investing in smaller companies has also paid off. Hitt recalled successes in targeting pharmaceutical companies such as Nephron Pharmaceuticals and Abbott (previously St. Jude Medical), then looking at startups. "Brand" South Carolina is also paying off. Though relatively small, our cities are benefitting from outsized reputations: Charleston is known internationally as a destination, and Greenville is building a compelling brand nationally.

3. Startups Are Ready to Roll

Acknowledging that some of our biggest wins have come from small starts, SCBIO Live features a pitch contest. Eleven young companies applied, and five were selected to pitch their novel technologies. The winner was Aravis Biotech, LLC, which pitched its stability measurement tool that indicates when a fractured bone can bear weight again.

The company is led by Dr. Jeffrey Anker, a Clemson University assistant professor in analytical chemistry, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Caleb Behrend, and Dr. John DesJardins, a Clemson bioengineering professor who has participated in two Upstate SC Alliance mission trips to Spain to recruit bioscience companies to the region.

Other pitches were:

  • a mobile app that connects parents with caregivers of children in neonatal intensive care
  • a technology for freezing living tissue and later rejuvenating it back to a living state
  • digitized catheters that send an alert at the signs of dangerous infection
  • disposable membranes that help purify drugs 100 times faster and 40 percent cheaper

4. Life Sciences Hubs Are Here and Growing

Developments are coming fast as private entities partner with universities to develop products and grow companies.

Gibbs Cancer Center and Research Institute in Spartanburg has transformed into an academic/community hybrid according to President Dr. Tim Yateman. With a focus on colorectal cancer, the center conducts high-quality research on smaller scale, allowing it to stay on cutting edge of genome sequencing, drug development and more. Research is then rapidly translated into a clinical setting.

Gibbs is also the nucleus of the Guardian Research Network, a multi-state consortium of healthcare operators in several states that share real time information to quickly identify trends and deliver targeted therapies.

In Greenville, Greenville Health System (GHS) is "basically a giant laboratory for industry" given its 14,000 employees, eight campuses and thousands of patients, according to Sam Konduros, Executive Director for the Research Development Corporation (RDC) of GHS. RDC currently works with more than 50 companies that span nine different specialties in life sciences. The coming IMED campus in the southern part of Greenville County comes from collaboration among landowners, real estate developers, and industry input. It will be something of a cross between Research Triangle Park and Greenville's Clemson University Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) that Konduros also helped develop. 

5. We May Not Be Boston, But We Can Compete

Wayne Roper, SCBIO president, says he is often asked whether South Carolina can really compete in the life sciences. His answer? “Absolutely.”

At this very moment, a number of biomedical innovations are taking place in South Carolina, from healthIT to cancer treatments. Industry leaders concede that South Carolina will not be able to recreate biotech powerhouses like Boston or Research Triangle Park overnight, but the state has a proven record of bringing home-grown research to market. Both Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina, for example, have spun out business concepts, and have faculty with feet planted in both business and life sciences research. The challenge, now, is to do even more.

Photographs by SCBIO. 

Center for Advanced Engineering Fibers and Films work supports Upstate advanced materials growth

Dr. Amod Ogale, director of Clemson University’s Center for Advanced Engineering Fibers and Films, recently received $2 million for collaborative research that aims to lower the cost of carbon fibers. 

According to a Clemson University news release, Ogale’s latest round of funding comes as part of a collaboration with the Center for Composite Materials at University of Delaware. The center, which is leading the research, has received $14.9 million from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency for the Tailorable Feedstock and Forming Program.

We congratulate Dr. Ogale on his research and collaboration with multiple agencies to seek solutions for the advanced materials sector, which supports the Upstate’s strong automotive and aerospace presences and has grown in its own right in recent years. 

Materials such as the composites and carbon fiber products being researched by Ogale are at the core of “light weighting” – improving upon design so that products weigh less and are therefore more fuel efficient, easier to transport and more appealing to consumers (in the case of products such as bicycles and golf clubs). It’s been a practice among by the aerospace sector for years as aircraft producers have created lighter, faster and more fuel efficient aircraft to meet the needs of their commercial and military customers. It is also a growing focus for the automotive industry, where vehicle manufacturers are seeking lightweight, yet durable, materials that allow them to meet increasing fuel economy requirements and safety standards.

In the Upstate, advanced materials companies employ 38,883, which is 77 percent above the national average and growing, with 1 percent growth from 2014-2015.

We’ve seen tremendous growth in the sector, which includes plastics companies such as Plastic Omnium, Mitsubishi Polyester Film; optics and photonics producers such as AFL Telecommunications and Ceramtec; advanced textiles manufacturers such as BBA Fiberweb and Cytec Carbon Fiber; and metalworking and fabrication such as Fisher Barton and Spartanburg Steel.

The Upstate Alliance recently participated in the Global Cities Initiative, which included a market assessment and development of a regional foreign-direct investment plan that was launched in March. Within the FDI plan, advanced materials was identified as a sector where innovation from Upstate companies can catapult successful solutions across a global footprint with added investment or if R&D technologies are spun out or commercialized in partnership with other local small and medium-sized enterprises. It’s also a sector with strong demonstrated collaboration between Clemson University and industrial partners such as Milliken, Michelin and Sealed Air. 

So far this year, the Upstate has seen four new and three expansion announcements among advanced materials companies, with a total capital investment of $158,350,000 and 472 jobs. Utilization of advanced materials translates into jobs in materials production, logistics, and development of new process for the manufacturing of materials. Presence of these suppliers also supports major existing employers who utilize advanced materials, such as BMW, GE and Lockheed Martin.

Dr. Amod Ogale’s research innovation demonstrates the vital partnerships between Clemson’s academic researchers and area manufacturers to explore solutions to today’s challenges. This relationship, through the presence of Clemson graduates and Clemson’s research centers, gives the Upstate an advantage when recruiting businesses. 

New advanced materials announcements, 2016 year-to-date: 

Advanced Materials Expansion Announcements, 2016 year-to-date: 

Want more information on the advanced materials industry in Upstate South Carolina? Let our Business Recruitment team assist your company in finding the perfect location, gathering critical market intelligence and making business connections.

Jacob Hickman
Director of Business Recruitment

Photograph of Dr. Ogale's research team provided by Clemson University.