BMW Manufacturing operates BMW Plant Spartanburg in South Carolina. It is the biggest BMW factory in the world and produces the BMW X3, X4, X5, X6, and later this year, the new BMW X7. The plant employs about 10,000 people. But it needs more well-trained high-tech workers, so this year it will increase the number of apprentices it accepts into its BMW Scholars program to 200, effectively doubling the program’s size.
BMW initiated the BMW Scholars program in 2011 to educate and train students to succeed in an advanced manufacturing environment with critical high-technology components both in the manufacturing process as well as in the products they produce.
“Technology is constantly changing in the automotive industry,” said Knudt Flor, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing. “Now more than ever, we must invest in highly skilled workers who can solve problems. Investing in BMW Scholars allows us to develop a pool of talented men and women who will help sustain the future of BMW.”
Over the life of the BMW Scholars program, BMW Manufacturing teamed up with three area technical colleges: Spartanburg Community College, Greenville Technical College, and Tri-County Technical College. BMW Scholars go to classes at their schools full-time, and also work at BMW Plant Spartanburg for 20 to 25 hours each week. BMW picks up the cost of tuition and books, provides healthcare benefits, and pays the students for the time they spend working in the factory.
“Working with our education partners we are able to build the skilled workforce that BMW needs,” said Ryan Childers, department manager for talent programs at BMW. “Ten or more years ago, you might have a mechanic, an electrician, and a robotics person all employed in a manufacturing environment. Now we need all those skills in one person. With advanced manufacturing and the new economy, that’s what the market demands.”
Recently BMW announced another area school would join the program. Piedmont Technical College located in Greenwood, South Carolina has become the BMW Scholars fourth education partner.
“Teamwork and collaboration between BMW and our education partners have been the key to the success of BMW Scholars,” said Childers. “I’m confident that adding Piedmont Technical College will only enrich our program. It’s through this great public-private partnership that the next generation of BMW associates are being developed.”
In the past seven years, six graduating classes comprising 138 BMW Scholar graduates have completed the program. All the graduating scholars were offered full-time positions at BMW, which is well-known for being one of the best companies to work for.
Individuals who are interested in becoming a BMW Scholar should apply at one of the program’s four educational partners, and be prepared to study in one of the following disciplines: automotive technology; robotics/mechatronics/industrial maintenance; mechanical or electrical engineering; logistics/supply chain management; or production associate technology or other related manufacturing fields. When enrolled as a BMW Scholar, students must maintain at least a 2.8 GPA.—Scott Blazey
[Photo courtesy of BMW AG.]