Article and photographs written and provided by Communications Coordinator of Sumter County, Joe Perry

Today’s students will learn about the jobs of tomorrow.

About 400 eighth graders from Sumter and Lee counties are expected to attend a Manufacturers & Technology Expo on March 31 at Central Carolina Technical College’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center, or AMTTC. Spearheaded by the Sumter Development Board, the first ever Expo has many local companies involved.

Manufacturers such as Kaydon, Caterpillar and Eaton will give presentations about what they do, said Erika Williams, who manages communications and strategic initiatives for the Development Board. The idea is that these students might be interested to know that highly lucrative careers steeped in technology await them and don’t require a four-year college degree.

“We want to reclaim our workforce,” she said. “We hope they know that jobs at places like Continental Tire pay really well and provide a solid, long-term career.”

There are three major programs of study at Central Carolina’s AMTTC, explained Brent Russell, the school’s dean of Industrial & Engineering Technology. Mechatronics involves a lot of electrical and mechanical skills, he said, from robotics to programmable logic controllers to hydraulics and pneumatics.

The engineering program teaches students how to design with computer aided software such as AutoCAD for areas ranging from mechanical and architectural to civil, electronics and more. The machine tool technology program involves students learning how to make parts using a variety of materials from steel to aluminum using conventional machinery to state of the art computer numerical controlled (CNC) equipment.

Students at the expo will not only learn about the many job opportunities available in Sumter County and in the Midlands region, but they’ll also get to tour the facility, Russell said. Students will also get a glimpse into other popular programs at Central Carolina such as welding, automotive and HVAC.

“Since we can’t bring the labs over,” he said. “So we’ll set up in classrooms and instructors will talk about the different career paths.”

In the PLC lab, instructor John Propst explained that programmable logic controllers are used to control processes based on input and by using an algorithm or program. The AMTTC features both the Allen-Bradley PLC – found mostly in the Lowcountry – and the Siemens model, which is abundant in Upstate manufacturing, Propst said.

Eaton, a power management company that saw $19.7 billion in sales in 2016 with customers in more than 175 countries, is taking part in the Expo.

There’s a strong desire to see students succeed in areas of science, technology and math, said Detra Mardis, Eaton’s human resources manager. She said the company enjoys partnerships with the schools and looks forward to explaining their power management technology and services.

David Tuders, Central Carolina’s academic program manager for engineering graphics technology, said the school’s students are in high demand. Just in his program, there are 16 students graduating in May, and 14 already have internships or are already working.

“Everybody’s heard of AutoCAD. Well, we have the only program in the state that teaches six different computer aided design programs. We also have the only program that teaches nine different drawing disciplines,” such as mechanical, civil, and architectural, for example. “Our students are really well rounded and when they graduate they can go work with engineers or architects and create blueprints and create technical drawings.”

There’s also several local manufacturers that utilize the school’s resources and students to help them solve problems in their processes.

“It is real world applications,” he said. “We’re helping ideas become reality.”

Williams said students can expect to see  a strong contingent of manufacturers and entities at the Expo: Continental, Kaydon, Caterpillar, Sumter Packaging, Team Image, Eaton, BD, Shaw AFB, SpaWar, Carolina Filters, Industrial Services Group, Thompson Construction Group, IT-ology, Coca-Cola Consolidated , Black River Electric , Mount Franklin Foods, Monster.com and BCA.

Also on hand will be: USC-Sumter, Central Carolina Technical College, Morris College, Sumter Career and Technology Center and Lee County Career and Technology Education.

Eddie Humphries shows off chess pieces made at Central Carolina’s AMTTC.

Students at Central Carolina’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center’s machine tool technology use the latest and most high tech precision equipment.

Brent Russell points out how laser alignment is used at Central Carolina’s AMTTC.