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University holds first graduation for apprentices

American patriot Paul Revere. Founding father, inventor and statesman Benjamin Franklin. Writer Mark Twain.

While these men had different paths in life, each served an apprenticeship to learn a skill or trade that prepared them for jobs before they earned a place in history.

The University of South Carolina added 19 other names to the roster of the nation’s great apprentices Wednesday (May 20) with its first graduation for employees in custodial and landscaping services.

The University of South Carolina Apprenticeship Program, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship, was begun in 2006 to encourage “careers, not jobs,” said Jim Demarest, director of the university’s facility services.

“We are investing in our employees, and we are investing in our future,” he said.

Beginning the apprenticeship program in landscaping was a matter of following the U.S. Department of Labor’s guidelines. However, the university also wanted an apprenticeship program for custodial workers. The U.S. Department of Labor didn’t offer a program in this field. The university worked with the department to develop the guidelines for custodial apprentices.

“It was time to change,” Demarest said. “Custodial workers are required to do more than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Codes and technology have changed. This was a program that was needed.”

Thus, the university became the first employer in the nation to have a federal registered apprenticeship program in custodial services and the first state agency to offer apprentice programs to employees.

Landscaping classes were held at Midlands Technical College. Classes for custodial workers were held at Carolina. The apprentices’ training included 144 hours in the classroom and 2,000 hours in the field. Core curriculum included training for the apprentices to be the “best of the best” university employees and course work on ethics and image, energy conservation, sustainability, work rules and policies. Graduates earned a federal certificate of completion, a university certificate of completion and a journeyman’s card certifying their skills.

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