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Five Questions with...Kyle Hughes

Five-minute read about workforce development, common misconceptions surrounding manufacturing careers and the Greer Production Unit

We continue our interview series with Kyle Hughes, Change Leader for the Sandvik Coromant Production Unit in Greer, SC. A graduate of Riverside High School and Bonds Career Center, Hughes knows first hand the value of vocational and internship programs for students interested in manufacturing careers. Along with his colleagues, Hughes recently accepted the Education Business Partner of the Year award from the South Carolina Association for Career and Technical education. Here's a 5-minute read on what he has to say about workforce development, misconceptions surrounding manufacturing careers and the Greer Production Unit.

Sandvik Coromant: You recently accepted an award from the South Carolina Association for Career and Technical education. How did you originally get involved with the local Chamber's LaunchGVL partnership and Bonds Career Center?

Kyle Hughes: We were looking to hire full time employees in Greer, and we weren't having much success through staffing agencies. My manager, Mike Hickey, was involved in a series of meetings at our local Chamber of Commerce where he first heard about the program. I was introduced to the Bonds "Work Based Learning Coordinator" at one of the Chamber meetings, and we discussed LaunchGVL, as well as our passion to provide opportunities to students who were looking for a career in manufacturing.  As a former student at Bonds Career Center, I was very familiar with their process and programs. We set up a day and went to Bonds to meet with the Machine Tool Technology class to show them what Sandvik Coromant has to offer them. There was a lot of interest from the students, and we ended up lining up a few paid internships with them. Some of which are currently now full-time employees with us.

SC: How important are programs like this to the manufacturing industry?

KH: I think they are critical to the development of our future workforce. There are a lot of opportunities available for young people now to get a head start in a career in manufacturing. They can earn dual credit college courses while still in high school, as well as gaining on the job experience through paid internships.

SC: Has anything surprised you in this journey of helping students become interns and full time employees?students at Greer.jpg

KH: The biggest surprise to me is how fast they learn.  We've been able to, in many cases, show them how to do a task one time, and then they are on their own working without needing much assistance. Today's generation gets a bad rap. They are often mislabeled as lazy or irresponsible. Most of them have never been shown how to work and what it means to be an employee. Soft skills are one of the key things that we look for when selecting students for the internships. If they are employable, and they have the will to learn, we can teach them to become a value to the company. All while earning competitive wages and gaining invaluable experience that can set them on a great career path in Sandvik Coromant.

SC: You're thinking about establishing a registered apprenticeship program to offer more opportunities to students. What challenges do you see in making this happen?

KH: The main concern when we first started looking into a "Registered Program" was the amount of time it would take to maintain the program. However, after working with our local Department of Commerce, we learned that they have resources in place to help us maintain the documentation and reporting side of it. This way, all we have to do is update them on the progress of each apprentice, and they take care of the rest.

SC: What would you like current high school students and their parents to know about careers in manufacturing? What misconceptions would you like to change surrounding careers in manufacturing?

KH: One of the most obvious reasons to choose a career in manufacturing is the current number of positions available. In the past, manufacturing was down, and the jobs were harder to come by. This made it hard for people without on the job experience to land a manufacturing job. Now, employers are in search of people who possess the soft skills needed to be a good employee and are not as concerned about their experience level. Many employers (including Sandvik Coromant) are willing to reimburse employees for college courses that pertain to the work done at their sites.

Greer production unit shop floor rollup.jpgThere has always been a perception that careers in manufacturing are dirty, back breaking work. I think if more people were able to see the beautiful facility we have here in Greer, most would be surprised. We also get to do work for some awesome companies. The other misconception is the pay. There are many ways to earn a great wage in manufacturing. When we have a group of students come to Greer on a field trip, we always tell them to look at all the nice new vehicles in our parking lot. A lot of those vehicles are owned by employees who, just a few years ago, were in their same position.




SC: Bonus question: what's your favorite Sandvik Coromant tool and why?

KH: The 2P350 family of tools (also called the CoroMill Plura). They were designed and developed right here in Greer and it are performing very well in the global market.


Where to find more information:

Bonds Career Center through Greenville County Schools

Launch GLV - Greenville Chamber of Commerce

See if a manufacturing career is right for you! Take a free assessment test or try our free Metal Cutting Technology eLearning program! ​

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