Featured

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.

Earning a CDL leads to life-changing opportunity

Lucinda Blend, a driver for Clemson Area Transit (CATbus), was following her usual route through Clemson University campus on January 19, 2018 when she began to smell an electrical aroma in the bus. As she reached for the radio to advise headquarters, a passenger in the back of the bus yelled “Fire!”

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.

Keep on rolling – VR helps bus drivers stay on the job

Cecelia Maples was having trouble “walking the bus.”

“Walking the bus” refers to making a safety check of a school bus that includes checking all lights, ensuring all equipment is functioning properly, and examining the interior and exterior of the vehicle for damage. Drivers perform this check at least four times a day.

Cecelia has been a school bus driver for the Kershaw County School District for 14 years and loves her job. But she had been having difficulty walking for almost two years, and it was getting worse. Now it was affecting her job.

“I could barely walk and when I did, it was just agonizing pain,” she says. “If I can‘t walk my bus and I can‘t sit down and drive the bus, then I‘m going to be out of a job.”

Surviving and thriving

One by one, the participants of VR's four-week brain injury comprehensive evaluation hold up a small painting they have just completed and describe what it means to them. The painting is a chance for them to express something about their life with brain injury, what they have learned while at VR, and to reflect on their future.

Tony Ramey is a big Clemson fan, as you might guess from looking at his canvas. It is decorated in bold purple and orange lines, with four heart shapes arranged diagonally, almost like paws.

“The purple is like a purple heart,” he tells the group. “It's about bravery and what we have overcome.” Tony has a severe speech impediment, but no one has trouble understanding him. “The orange is the eye of the tiger. You have to have strength and determination.”

“That’s not what any of us expected him to say,” says Janet Spires, Nurse Supervisor. The art project is the final group activity for these clients. Together, they came up with a word which is sketched across the canvas boards. When the paintings are properly arranged, the word will be visible.

Welding talent with employers

Jerald Grimes is a welder at Kobelco Construction Machinery in Moore, SC, where he helps to assemble the upper and lower frames of the 20 ton hydraulic excavators the company produces for worldwide distribution.

“I like welding, any kind of welding,” he says, excitedly. “I’ve been doing this for 31 years and love it.”

The components that Jerald welds fit together are big and require from three to six passes to weld.

“He’s one of my best welders,” says Jason Martel, Production Fabrication Supervisor at Kobelco.

The fabrication area where Jerald works currently produces one and a half frame assemblies per day and are ahead of their schedule.

“We ship one thing out of the plant and that’s a fully assembled excavator,” says Eric Holland, Human Resources Manager at Kobelco. Eventually, the company will produce eight different types of excavators ranging in size from 17 to 50 tons. “Right now, we’re producing one every two days. The next production goal is one a day. The capacity with one shift is 1,800 per year. That’s upwards of nine a day, or one an hour.”

Pilot program at Evaluation Center for Deaf clients

Fourteen Deaf and hard of hearing clients attended a two-week pilot program at VR’s Evaluation Center in West Columbia in January. The clients engaged in team-building exercises, practiced interviewing skills, learned about Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), participated in assessments and vocational evaluations.

“We started them off on the ropes course at Wil Lou Gray because we wanted to see what they were capable of,” says Shonna Magee, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator. The group quickly bonded as they worked together and encouraged each other while climbing the catwalk, balancing on platforms and zip lining.

Cultivating the seeds of success

“We’ve hired ten percent of our workers through the VR SWAT program,” Jeff Mang, plant manager of HBD Thermoid, tells a group of business and community leaders during the 1st Annual Camden Area Business Cookout at the Camden Work Training Center on August 17.

The group includes more than 40 representatives from Lee, Kershaw and Camden counties, who are learning firsthand how VR helps businesses find talented employees through services such as Skilled Workforce Apprenticeship Training (SWAT).

“We make the very best transmission belts for lawn mowers in the world,” Mang continues, “and these employees are our top tier performers. They are knowledgeable and excited to come to work.”