Community Partnerships

VR consumers jump start manufacturing careers with ManuFirst SC credential

Tommy Pruitt, Human Resources Manager at Ruiz Foods, recently discussed the opportunities available at Ruiz Foods and the importance of the ManuFirstSC credential with VR Consumers during the third week of ManuFirstSC training held at the Southeastern Institute for Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT), which is part of Florence-Darlington Technical College. The ManuFirst SC credential is recognized by the industry as the equivalent to one year’s manufacturing experience, which is what many manufacturers require for an entry-level job. During the training, students learn about safety, quality practices and measurement, manufacturing processes and production, maintenance awareness, and OSHA-10.

Ground breaking at Seneca VR

Vocational Rehabilitation Seneca recently hosted a Ground Breaking Ceremony to celebrate the expansion of their training center.

More than 90 consumers, business and community partners, and supporters to joined in the celebration of this expansion, which will allow the Seneca office to serve more people with disabilities in Oconee and Pickens counties.

Students enjoy STEAM activities at Bon Secours Wellness Arena

Students who receive services from VR’s Greenville and Greer Training Centers, or who participate in Project SEARCH at St. Francis Hospital, recently attended a special “STEAM Day” (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) event at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, SC.

Twenty-seven students participated in a variety of STEAM activities hosted by local businesses, including assembling small robots, 3D printing, experimenting with music creation using computers, and experiencing virtual reality learning. They also went behind the scenes to tour the area and learn about the many different career opportunities available at Bon Secours. The event ended with the students watching the University of Florida play the University of Mississippi women’s basketball game, part of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Welder returns to work with VR help

Felipe Gallegos came to VR’s Bryant Center in Lyman in March 2017, hoping to receive services and assistance that could help him return to work after a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Felipe had a successful career as a welder at Spartanburg Steel. He made a good living, and provided a loving home for his wife, Consuelo, and their children. Felipe is also close to his brother, and they worked together raising and breaking horses.

In late 2016, Felipe and his brother were working with a horse that had not yet been ridden. Felipe later explained that he had “an argument with a horse, and I lost.” The horse kicked the left side of Felipe’s head, resulting in a skull fracture and a brain bleed (stroke), which left Felipe in a coma for more than six weeks.

Walterboro part of Leadership Colleton

VR’s Walterboro Office was recently part of Leadership Colleton’s Education and Workforce Day. Leadership Colleton participants learned about VR services, partners, and toured the Job Readiness Training Center.

The Walterboro-Colleton Chamber of Commerce created Leadership Colleton to help develop a core of informed, committed and qualified individuals for leadership roles.

Sewing her way to success

Juana Ospina was looking for a way to build her confidence, advance her skills and enjoy a career. With assistance from Vocational Rehabilitation, she did just that. As she completed job readiness training, Juana’s determination and potential was apparent to everyone in VR's Moncks Corner office. Although very quiet and unsure of herself, Juana was highly competent and possessed exceptional attention to detail.

Commitment leads to new beginning

Vernelle Gettie is not afraid of hard work. At the age of 8, she began spending the daylight hours after school in the fields of Saluda County picking cotton and peaches alongside her grandmother.

At 18, when most teens are looking for their first job, Vernelle, with ten years of work experience, became a mother. She dropped out of her rural high school to take a job as a housekeeper in an Aiken hotel, which required her to make a daily sixty-mile commute. She kept that routine for five years, until she decided to move to Detroit to live with family. The Motor City offered many opportunities, and Vernelle found employment in the food service and environmental service industries. However, she discovered that the work she most enjoyed was at a facility that served residents with disabilities.

Training opportunities lead to employment at Volvo

People often need a variety of experiences to find their niche in life, and often surprise themselves when they discover the right path. Michael Magill is one of those individuals. He was referred to VR by the Berkeley County School District during his junior year of high school. At the time, Michael was considering various options for completing high school: attend virtual school, obtain a GED, or remain in school and earn his diploma. He tried virtual school, but it did not meet his needs. So he decided to push through the “awkward social setting” of public school to finish his senior year at Stratford High School.

Michael was also undecided on which vocational goal he wanted to pursue. Because of this uncertainty, Michael’s VR counselor worked with him to explore various career paths.

Re-entry Job Fairs offer opportunities across the state

Job seekers and employers recently converged on Summerville for the South Coast Re-entry Job Fair. More than 100 job seekers interviewed with 23 employers for positions ranging from hospitality to construction. Six individuals were hired on the spot and many others are expected to be offered positions over the coming weeks.

In Columbia, more than 80 job seekers attended the Central Re-entry Job Fair at Dutch Square Mall where they interviewed with 26 employers.

Job fair shows students lots of career opportunities

The Oconee-Pickens VR office recently participated in the third annual Graduates to Work Job Fair at Liberty High School, which was attended by more than 200 seniors.

Business Development Specialist Dan Alexander explained to those at the fair that VR assists students with disabilities.

“We start working with kids age 16, because that allows us to find out where they’re coming from and what they’re looking at and what their career objective is,” Alexander said. “We want to make sure we’re working to fulfill those goals. I’m always interested to listen about what fields they’re (students) interested in entering.”

Project SEARCH co-founder visits students in Spartanburg

The co-founder of a 22-year-old program that helps students with learning disabilities land jobs after graduation came to Spartanburg Medical Center on Tuesday to see firsthand the fruits of her labor.

“The biggest joy is seeing people with disabilities get quality skills and jobs,” said Susan Rutowski of Project SEARCH in Cincinnati, which has grown since 1996 to more than 400 programs in 46 states and five other countries.

Spartanburg Medical Center was the first in South Carolina to use Project SEARCH, having worked in 2014 with Dorman High School. Other partners include the S.C. State Workforce Investment Board and the S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation Department. Last year, Pickens and Anderson counties joined the program.

Customized training

VR is developing strong partnerships with local businesses and industries to understand their specific needs, and in turn provide them with job candidates who have the skills and training required by those businesses. To accomplish this, VR is also partnering with technical colleges around the state.

Second chance forum in Greenville

Greenville Counselors Cierra Mack and Chris Mulley, and LaMonica Woodruff, Vocational Assessment and Career Specialist, participated in the 7th Annual “A Second Chance Forum,” at the West End Community Center on November 16. The event featured an expungement and pardon workshop and a job fair where a number of individuals were interviewed on-site.

Customized training presentation at CSAVR

Representatives from Ruiz Foods, HM Solutions, and the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT) joined VR Business Development Specialist Susan Courtney for a panel discussion about VR’s customized training initiatives at the recent Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) Fall Conference in Greenville.

 The presentation focused on how VR develops strong partnerships with local businesses and industries to understand their specific needs, and in turn provide them with job candidates who have the specific skills and training required by those businesses. To help provide the required training, VR has partnered with a number of the technical colleges around the state.

Hard work leads to success as welding instructor

When Eric Scriven was referred to the Walterboro VR Office by Colleton County Probation and Parole Services, he was at a turning point. He was in jail due to probation revocation and a court requirement to attend inpatient treatment for substance abuse. With a long criminal history and an even longer history of drug use, Sciven knew he needed help to overcome his additions and achieve his desire to obtain competitive employment.

Interim commissioner drops in on drop-in

VR Interim Commissioner Felicia Johnson (center) recently attended the Oconee-PIckens Office’s first Veterans Appreciation Drop-In. Attendees of the event learned about services provided by VR and partner organizations, including SC Works, National Guard, Oconee Veterans Affairs, Pickens Veterans Affairs, Disabled American Veterans, Upstate Warriors, and Southern Wesleyan University.

More than 50 people attended the event, including local business Champion Aerospace. A client in the training center was excited to receive a job from Champion Aerospace through the HTI Staffing Company. Champion Aerospace’s HR manager, Dave Hocker, spoke very highly of the client, who has a silver WorkKeys certificate and has also completed the ten-week SC Manufacturing Certificate Program through Tri-County Technical College.

Also pictured are Gloria Holmes, Area Client Services Manager; Sheila Ford, Area Supervisor; Dan Alexander, Business Development Specialist; Vincent Bryant, Center Manager.

Boeing featured at Oconee Economic Alliance Business Forum

Sheila Ford, Oconee-Pickens Area Supervisor; Rep. Bill Sandifer; Tommy Preston, Director of National Strategy and Engagement and Government Operations at Boeing South Carolina; Senator Thomas Alexander; Dan Alexander, Business Development Specialist. Preston spoke recently at the Oconee Economic Alliance Business Forum, a monthly event where citizens and business leaders share information and discuss ways to work together to improve Oconee.