Construction program provides job skills, improves lives
Daryl Miller had a steady job in a manufacturing plant, but he didn’t find it fulfilling. He had a longtime interest in getting into the construction industry.
So, Miller joined a special program at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, where people from across Spartanburg County learn construction skills like carpentry, plumbing, electrical and more from construction manager Jason Head and facilities director Doug Dills.
Local construction firms have been eager to hire program graduates, according to Head.
Miller gained employment with subcontractors doing work with Spartanburg Regional. Among the electrical projects he has worked on, Miller helped connect wiring for the Spartanburg Regional Outpatient Center parking lot when it recently underwent extensive renovations.
He’s proud of his contribution.
“After it was finished, I would ride by and see it and think to myself, ‘Wow, I really did that,’” said Miller, who hopes to eventually run his own construction company.
Developed to provide training
The construction program started in 2017 as a partnership between the healthcare system and the Northside Development Group. As construction projects were beginning to take off in the area, leaders wanted residents of the Northside to have opportunities to work on job sites.
“The challenge was that most of the people who were interested didn’t have the necessary skills. And there really wasn’t anywhere to get the training they needed,” Head said.
The program was a success and has since expanded to take students from all over Spartanburg County.
Scholarships for the students are funded by the City of Spartanburg, the Northside Development Group, SC Works, Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce and Spartanburg County government. Spartanburg Regional Foundation manages these funds in coordination with the Spartanburg Regional Community Health program.
“The construction program is so valuable because it gives participants marketable skills for long-range employment. This benefits them and their families, as well as the local economy,” said Erica Rhodes, community health project coordinator.
The Spartanburg Regional construction department is housed in a large workshop on the Spartanburg Medical Center — Church Street campus. Students participate in classroom discussions and textbook readings as well as hands-on activities, which include working with drywall and wooden framing. They also tackle projects with plumbing and electrical equipment.
“Learn as much as I can”
It’s a diverse group of students. Some are just out of high school and looking to get a start on a career. Others are looking for a chance to start over.
One student is a retired man who said he wanted to gain skills and ideas to share with young men he mentors at his church. One is Dawn Jenkins, who said the class helped her get a job as a maintenance technician for the Spartanburg Housing Authority. She hopes to eventually become a general contractor.
“I try to be like a sponge and learn as much as I can,” she said.
Each year, two students work as official apprentices, assisting with projects around the hospital system.
The program is accredited by the National Center for Construction Education and Research.
Head and his colleagues are proud of the skills the students learn – and the employment opportunities that come their way. He’s most proud of the way the program has helped to change lives for the better.
“By far, the best thing is just the difference we’ve made,” he said. “We’ve had people who were homeless when they started, and they got a job and a place to live and their health has improved. But regardless of their situation, every person in the class is there because they want to get better at something. It’s a really good feeling.”
Learn more about programs supported by Spartanburg Regional Foundation at www.regionalfoundation.com.