COLUMBIA — S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions leadership on Friday unveiled a robust workforce-development consortium with sights trained on the greater Aiken County region.
“Today marks a major announcement,” the Republican governor said, “where Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and Apprenticeship Carolina, which is a part of the technical college system, is collaborating with businesses and industries in the area, as well as the schools in the area, to form a collaboration that will get our young people trained.”
The ambitious goal, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions President and CEO Stuart MacVean explained at the ceremony, is to establish 300 apprenticeships by about this time next year. The focus, he continued, is “to prepare skilled individuals ready for careers at both the Savannah River Site as well as all the manufacturers in the CSRA.”
The Savannah River Site, the 310-square-mile Department of Energy complex south of Aiken, employs roughly 11,000 people. For decades it has been a major economic engine for both South Carolina and neighboring Georgia.
As the site’s defense portfolio expands – as it is expected to – and people retire, the demand for skilled workers will boom. It’s a manpower discussion MacVean began having with regional players more than a year ago.
“We have enormous assets in South Carolina that they don’t have in other places,” McMaster said, “and one of the main ones we have is our people, who will work together to get things done.”
Members of the CSRA Apprenticeship Task Force include Aiken Technical College, Aiken Works, the Economic Development Partnership and the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization, according to a public announcement.
Both state Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, and Dr. Margaret Gilmore, the Allendale County Schools superintendent, described the task force and its goal as a game changer.
“As a school leader in Allendale, South Carolina, I believe this apprenticeship challenge will provide opportunities for our students to experience on-the-job training and firsthand exposure to work-based learning,” said Gilmore, who was lauded at the event. She added: “School districts across the state are primed to benefit from this apprenticeship program.”
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions oversees the Savannah River Site. The longtime management-and-operations contractor is led by Fluor.