Spartanburg, S.C. – “You have to be set up for success,” said Stephanie Bush-Chastain, transitional specialist for Dorman High School.
Fifty students currently participate in Dorman’s Occupational Program, which includes classes in English, writing, mathematics, S.C. history, government and biology as well as assistance with career and employment training. The Occupational Program is designed to assist non-diploma seeking students with obtaining job and daily living skills so that after high school they can successfully transition to independent living. The program follows the typical school year with emphasis on gaining skills for future employment.
Occupational Program students also participate in co-op programs with over a dozen Spartanburg County businesses. Bush-Chastain stressed the importance of “getting students into the community to interact with new environments and people.”
Meyco Products, a manufacturing corporation located near the high school on Highway 221, already had a co-op program with R.D. Anderson Applied Technology Center students. A chance conversation in 2012 about expanding the co-op program led Mark Isbell, Meyco’s operations manager and Daryl Everhart, Meyco’s human resources director to Dorman’s Occupational Program.
“Any time you start a new initiative, you have to commit to a lot of upfront work, but launching our co-op program with Dorman was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done,” said Isbell.
Meyco Products manufactures custom swimming pool covers for pool suppliers and event tents for the event rental industry through its two brands, Meyco Pool Covers and TopTec Event Tents. Meyco’s corporate headquarters are located in Melville, NY but the company moved the majority of its manufacturing operation to Spartanburg in 1988. In 2006, Meyco Products purchased TopTec Event Tents. In 2011, Meyco moved to its current location on Highway 221 in order to accommodate the company’s growing business.
“We’ve invested in Spartanburg County through our facilities,” said Meyco president John Ciniglio, “but we’re also investing in the people and skillsets here in the Upstate. Partnerships like this allow us to give students a real-world knowledge of a manufacturing environment and allow us to bring new ideas and processes into our workflow.”
Monday through Friday, students are transported from the high school to Meyco’s manufacturing facility by two Dorman employment specialists in a school activity bus.
The first co-op class had only 6 students; but this year, participation levels have more than doubled. “We’ve set up two ‘shifts’,” said Isbell. “Seven students participate in the morning co-op and 9 join us for the afternoon co-op.”
Students work side by side assembling key components in the company’s product line. “They are laser focused,” said Isbell. “You can tell they take this very seriously.”
Bush-Chastain said the school identifies students most likely to succeed in each type of working environment. “We can’t simulate this type of experience on campus,” she said. “The day to day in a real workplace is the best way to give our students the experience they need to get a job once they transition into the workforce.”
There are also additional options for Occupational Program students including Clemson University’s Life Program. “Acceptance into that program requires written, professional references. Our partnership with Meyco Products and other Spartanburg County businesses give our students opportunities for professional references. That’s a whole different level of diversity that they can leverage in their applications,” said Bush-Chastain.
About Meyco Products.
Meyco Products designs, manufactures and distributes custom pool covers for the pool and spa industry and event tents for the event rental industry through the corporation’s two brands – Meyco Pool Covers and TopTec Event Tents. Meyco’s founder, Fred Meyer, developed the world’s first mesh safety pool cover in 1957. In 1960, he was awarded a patent for the design. TopTec was founded in 1986 and manufactures frame tents, push-pole tents, large tension tents, ClearSpan structures, custom design tents and fabric structures. TopTec also hosts the annual Tent School, the industry’s longest running tent professional training program, at its Spartanburg facility.