Gene Haas Foundation presents check to HCC Machine Technology Teacher

STEM careers are receiving a lot of attention in the media. The acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and sometimes elicits visions of scientists in white lab coats. However, almost all career involve STEM disciplines in some way. In fact, Oconee County has many manufacturing facilities and most of those jobs are technical jobs involving STEM disciplines. Mr. Charles Godwin, Machine Technology instructor at Hamilton Career Center (HCC), recognizes the value and importance of preparing students for STEM careers because he has been out there. He left his six figure position in industry as a machinist to join the quality staff at HCC. In support of what Mr. Godwin is doing, Mr. Gordon Eargle, representative of the Gene Haas Foundation, recently presented him with a check for $4000 for his Machine Technology class. “We are pleased to find quality instructors like Mr. Godwin,” Mr. Eargle said. “He teaches the basics to students so that when they go on to Tri-County Technical College, or whatever their next step is, they are ready.” Gene Haas Foundation grants cannot be used to purchase equipment, machines or simulators. Mr. Godwin plans to use the money for instructor train-the-trainer professional development. “It is extremely difficult for the teaching staff at a technical school to stay abreast of developments in CNC manufacturing technology,” said Mr. Eargle. “Haas provides funding such to help address that issue.” “We are very thankful for extra funding like this,” said Chad Lusk, director of Hamilton Career Center. “HCC supports local industry by providing well-trained workers and supports district students by preparing them for well-paying jobs.” “I am afraid that Oconee County will not have the skilled workers needed in the future,” said Mr. Godwin. “Students may not understand that CNC operators, for example, start at $15.00 an hour and then progress up to $90,000 a year with training. Those are technical jobs that can start a student on an excellent career path.” “CAD classes are a perfect introduction to machining,” he continued, “because Cad-CAM generates the code for the machines. And a machinist who also gets an engineering degree would be in very high demand. We are always on the lookout for those types of workers.” Making students aware of career paths is exactly why HCC and industry created the NOW program, Nurturing Oconee’s Workforce. “Often students are not aware of the tremendous opportunities available right here in Oconee County,” Mr. Godwin continued. “Career awareness and direct contacts are the two main things we hope to accomplish for the NOW participants.” NOW participants recently visited Sandvik and iTron, accessing parts of the facilities that are typically closed to visitors. They spent time in small groups with management of the companies, allowing them networking opportunities. As Lusk, Godwin, and Eargle continued talking, it was obvious they agreed on one thing. Oconee County needs skilled workers, like machinists and operators, and the need will continue to grow. Since machining is a STEM application that incorporates CAD and computers, such a background can start students off on a career path with unlimited potential. And the NOW program is a good place to start exploring opportunities and making connections. Mr. Lusk encourages students who might be interested in joining this elite group to talk to their guidance counselors for more information, or to call the career center. HCC offers many technical courses that could prepare students for various occupations. “In order to prepare for the future,” continued Lusk, “students must know what opportunities are available to them. That is what we are trying to do.” Pictured are HCC Machine Technology students watch as Chad Lusk, Director of Hamilton Career Center (left), and Charles Godwin, Machine Technology Instructor (with check), receive a check from Gordon Eargle, representative of the Gene Haas foundation (right).