Service members at Beaufort's military bases have the skills to enter the civilian workforce, but they lack the required licenses to land those jobs, according to the director of a new program at the Technical College of the Lowcountry.
Paul Merritt says the program aims to change that.
The Transitioning Military Program, which began its first certificate course in February, is helping soon-to-be discharged service members obtain federal licenses that can help them get work as civilians, said Merritt, who recently retired from the Marine Corps after 25 years.
The program offers a Federal Aviation Administration airframe and power-plant certification, a Federal Communications Commission radio operator's license and a logistics technician certification, Merritt said.
A consultant hired by TCL in November determined there was enough demand for skilled employees in the region's aerospace industry to warrant the program. Merritt then hired instructors and got the program running. After offering the airframe and power-plant class in February, he began to expand the program's scope, hiring an FCC instructor in April and later a teacher for the logistics technician certification.
Each course is designed to prepare students for the federal exams they must take to get licensed. The programs are free, paid for by a state grant, and TCL also pays for each student to take the federal exam, Merritt said.
While the FCC radio-operator program can be taught in a classroom, the airframe class requires hands-on practice and demonstration. So the college purchased parts of a Cessna plane that's stored at Battery Creek High School, Merritt said.
Since February, 71 service members have taken certificate courses at TCL, Merritt said. Of those, 56 have earned certification, with nine more waiting to take the exam. Merritt said about half of the certified service members are still on active duty.
Merritt said the college plans to offer four sessions of each certificate every year.
He hopes the program will not only allow more service members to find civilian work, but attract more employers to the area.
"The military does a great job of training their people, but the licenses don't carry over into the civilian sector," he said. "These programs allow for a talented work pool here by helping veterans get licensed. Hopefully that talented pool will lure some aerospace companies to the area."
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.