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Regional businesses see donations to Dorchester District 2 as investment in SC workforce

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SUMMERVILLE — Dorchester District 2 Superintendent Joe Pye is big on community partnerships. He has to be to get the district's 26,269 students where they need to go.

The district regularly faces multimillion-dollar budget deficits due to a lack of adequate state funding. And for years while he sat at local chamber of commerce meetings, Pye said he would hear repeated comments that students coming out of South Carolina education systems simply weren't prepared to join the workforce. 

That's why Tuesday's event celebrating the opening of Summerville High School's new Career & Technology Center was both a celebration and a chance for Pye to thank local and regional businesses who helped the building come to fruition.

"This is a community vision, a dream that turned into a reality," he said. "No place can rival this. We've already heard from some of our business partners that the facilities they have, which inspired our facility, does not quite compare."

The building construction was paid for through a community referendum that Dorchester County voters approved in 2012. But a key part of making the CTE center possible was the businesses that donated over $624,000 worth of state-of-the-art equipment.

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Signs in the Summerville High School Career & Technology Center thank the local partners who donated equipment to the building classrooms. Conner Mitchell/Staff

That equipment will go a long way in better educating students to enter the workforce in an area that boasts companies such as Bosch, Volvo, Boeing and countless other trade fields, Pye said. 

Gitta Unger, vice president commercial at the Charleston Bosch plant, said she had been on a tour of the new facility three weeks ago, but it's still exciting to see the enthusiasm students have for the CTE classes. 

"Often, students don't get this level of education in the school system," she said. "(A building like this) helps us not have to teach the basics once students enter the workforce."

Other businesses who contributed to the CTE center but weren't able to attend Tuesday's event include Trident Technical College, Limehouse & Sons, Cornerstone Wealth Advisory and APEX Learning. 

As part of the curriculum being taught in the CTE center — which opened for classes in August — students are able to learn bio medical science, engineering, manufacturing, and media technology. 

Among the equipment donated to the manufacturing classes includes two 3D printers, a welding simulator, industrial robots with the same interface seen in the workplace, a forklift simulator, and industrial machines that can cut and process metal with precision to thousands of an inch. 

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Zachary Tyson, a senior at Summerville High School, demonstrates how to use one of the new manufacturing machines donated to the new Career & Technology Center. Conner Mitchell/Staff

Zachary Tyson, a senior in manufacturing classes, demonstrated several of the machines for those in attendance Tuesday. He said being able to learn on such high-quality equipment will make him and his classmates more prepared for real-life manufacturing jobs once they graduate. 

"Looking back at what makes Bosch a great company on a worldwide scale, I think this endeavor with Dorchester District 2 very well fits our history and our legacy at Bosch," Unger said. "We have always been a company, especially here in the U.S., that focused on supporting the community. ... It is extremely important to invest in education."

"We're at the ground level of some of our programs," she said. "We're getting ready to take off."

Contact Conner Mitchell at 843-958-1336. Follow him on Twitter at @ConnerMitchell0.

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