Restructuring for new opportunities

By Jermaine Whirl

A South Carolina college restructures academics to create clearer pathways.

When companies considering an Upstate South Carolina location come to town, representatives from Greenville Technical College (GTC) and Greenville County Schools have come to the table to make the pitch along with economic development leaders. Explaining the scope of educational offerings was somewhat complicated because the college’s programs weren’t aligned with the pathways that students follow in the K-12 system, and there wasn’t a clear correlation between the college’s divisions and the county’s key target industry segments.

All of that changed in June when GTC restructured academics, creating six new schools. Instead of divisions for Public Service/Arts & Sciences, Business & Technology, and Health & Wellness, we now have the School of Aviation, Construction & Transportation Technologies; the School of Business & Computer Technology; the School of Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering Technology; the School of Health Sciences; the School of Education & Professional Studies; and the School of Arts & Sciences. In addition, our division devoted to helping students achieve their academic goals was renamed the School of Academic Advancement & Support, and our continuing education arm has remained the Economic Development and Corporate Training division.

Our hope is that students who follow a pathway from elementary school through our programs of study will transition easily into college, following a route with a familiar name. Sixteen career clusters in the K-12 system are organized into six pathways, giving students from eighth grade onward a connection with a real, in-demand career field.

For example, if a high school student is interested in manufacturing within the K-12 system’s Industrial, Manufacturing and Engineering Systems pathway, it will be easy to find the mechatronics, mechanical engineering technology, CNC, machine tool technology, and bachelor’s degree in advanced manufacturing technology programs we offer through the School of Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering Technology.

To better connect education to the job market, Greenville County Schools and the Greenville Chamber have created LaunchGVL, an initiative that matches high school students with paid internships or apprenticeships that align with their career pathways. This learning takes them beyond the classroom into the real world, solidifying their interests, laying the groundwork for college studies, and building their resumes.

The reorganization will better capture what we offer for these K-12 students and for the general public, too. Non-traditional students will easily understand schools and colleges rather than divisions. Schools should also appeal to prospective donors, and this naming opportunity for each school at a seven-figure gift level will fund new endowments for faculty development, equipment and student scholarships. When the schools produce graduates, the tie between them and the college will be strengthened as alumni identify with the school from which they graduated.

At the other end of the spectrum, our six new schools correlate with the target industries of the county via our economic development partner, the Greenville Area Development Corporation (GADC). This effort to link our schools with GADC strengthens the community’s competitive advantage in recruitment by illustrating that our K-12 and higher education systems are aligned, and we have a well-coordinated workforce development plan that will create a pipeline of talent for years to come.

Greenville, S.C., enjoys a very strong economy, and partnerships are a key part of the area’s ability to attract and retain employers. Aligning what we offer with our partners means that we come to the table to meet with employers showing clear evidence that we can deliver on their workforce needs while giving the students in our community a connection with careers that begins in elementary school, continues through college, and results in skills that the strongest employers in the area are seeking.

Jermaine Whirl

is vice president of learning and workforce development at Greenville Technical College in Greenville, South Carolina