2012 Marks the 50th Anniversary of the South Carolina Technical College System

In 1961 South Carolina was in a crisis. The state's primary employers were agriculture and textiles and talented young people were opting to leave South Carolina for better opportunities as they didn't want to work on a farm or in a textile mill. South Carolina soon realized that they needed to diversify and attract new industry. In order to do that they needed to prove that there was a trained and skilled workforce in place for new businesses to be successful.  So began the SC Technical College System.

The first Technical Education Center (TEC) opened its doors in September 1962 in Greenville County.  The county set aside 20 acres of land and constructed a 54,000 square foot building on By-Pass 291 which was easily accessible to all residents.  Other TECs soon followed across the state.  Also in 1962 the Tri-County Technical Education Center was created to serve the counties of Anderson, Oconee and Pickens.  Spartanburg TEC followed shortly after in May 1963 with one hundred and fifty students enrolled in nine industrial and engineering technology training programs. Piedmont TEC was opened in August 1966 to serve the counties of Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenville, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry, and Saluda.

The TEC centers continued to grow and expand across South Carolina.  In March 1974 the State Board felt that "TEC" no longer described its mission so all center names were changed to colleges. In a statement from the Board, the title "Technical Education Center," was said to reflect a time when relatively limited and highly specialized training programs were offered. In view of the ever-changing technological demands of business and industry, coupled with the broadened and diverse educational needs of the people of South Carolina, certain industries were not accurately described by the term "center." The name changes were completed in 1980.

The early eighties (1980-1981) brought a "Design for the Eighties" program.  This program established resource centers across the state that trained faculty and staff in high technology. In 1983 mobile training units became part of this program and took advanced machine tool training to all parts of the state.  They were equipped with state-of-the-art CNC Brideport mill and Tree CNC lathe and the Numeridex Corporation computerized tape preparation system.

Another pivotal year was 2002 when the South Carolina Education Lottery Act authorized the use of lottery proceeds to fund SC residents attending two-year colleges.  Prior to the Act, only four-year colleges had access to lottery proceeds.  This opened the door for the SC Technical College System to offer its students additional funding options.

"For the past 50 years, the SC Technical College System has been committed to providing learning opportunities that promote the economic and workforce development of the state," says Kelly Steinhilper, Vice President of Communications, SC Technical College System. The System has played a key role in all the state's major economic development projects, including BMW, Boeing, Bridgestone, Michelin, and Continental.

Today, the SC Technical College System educates and trains more than a quarter million South Carolinians each year. In fact, the System educates more undergraduates than all the other public colleges and universities combined.  In addition, the technical colleges educate South Carolinians to live and work in South Carolina.  Ninety-six percent of technical college students are South Carolina residents and 85% remain in South Carolina after graduation.

The System continues to offer students the lowest tuition cost available and the greatest flexibility, allowing high-school graduates and non-traditional students alike to attain quickly the skills needed for a career in an in-demand line of work. What's more, the SC Technical College System also boasts the vast majority of South Carolina's first-generation college students.

For the past 50 years, the SC Technical College System has been dedicated to increasing the employability of all South Carolinians and ultimately enhancing the quality of life for all.

For more information, the South Carolina Technical College System has created an interactive timeline to celebrate this special anniversary.

Sherry Jackson is a freelance writer, editor and entrepreneur. Her articles have been featured in InfoWorld Magazine,Entrepreneur.com, USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, Jetsetter, Bootsnall, Gadling, Yahoo, See the South, Beckett Media, The Simpsonville Sentinel and many other print and online publications. For clips and examples of her work, please visit her website at www.dragonflyventures.com.