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.
University President Harris Pastides, who recently presided over 13 commencement ceremonies for the university’s eight campuses, said this graduation was particularly meaningful.
“You are advancing the entire university,” he said. “Things like this do not happen easily, and they do not do it in isolation.”
He praised the families of the graduates and the graduates themselves for their commitment “to walk the extra mile, to do the extra reading, to do the extra skill.”
One of the apprentices, Helen Scott, who worked in the Osborne Administration Building, died this year. Pastides presented Scott’s family with the “Outstanding Graduate Award” in her memory.
“She embodied the goals of this program,” said Pastides, who noted that Scott always could be found at work – no matter how early he arrived at his office. “Helen lives in the heart of this president.”
Other custodial graduates included David Crabbe, Annette Folks, Bernardo G. Garner, Connie Grimes, Randall T. Krenz, Sandra Mancle, Pamela G. Monette, Willie J. Riley, Jennifer Sansbury, Bennie Stinson, all from facilities; Katrina S. Heard, Geraldine Joyner, Lula M. Lloyd, Sherry D. McLamore, and Shannon L. Myers, all from housing; and Alvin J. McCoy and Dewey S. Wigington, both from zone maintenance. Kevin R. Curtis and Randall T. Krenz graduated from the landscaping apprenticeship program.
Dewey S. Wigington, who provides maintenance services for the university’s residence halls, said the program helps employees better understand “what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”
Wigington already had earned an associate’s degree in occupational technology.
“This is a super program,” he said. “The university has done a good job of partnering with other businesses to help us get the special training that we needed.”
Custodian Bennie Stinson has worked at the university since 1989.
“I see this as a way to improve myself and my job,” he said.
A seven-year employee at the university, Pamela Monette said the program was critical for her future.
“You have to be a ‘June of All Trades or a Jack of All Trades’ to work here,” she said. “You do what you have to do to make the university function. This will help in everything that I do.”
Monette, who works at the President’s House, praised the university’s efforts to “go green” in cleaning.
“We’re looking at a lot of different things to help the environment,” she said. “I like that.”
The university has 120 employees taking classes to become registered apprentices.