Boat towing company receives national grant, offers welding apprenticeships> Charleston Business Journal


A family-owned business that has so far helped 22 Charleston County high school students learn welding skills is the first company in South Carolina to receive a grant from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Maritime Administration.

Stevens towing, based on Yonges Island, is one of 31 shipyards nationwide to receive part of the $ 19.6 million funding for modernization that will increase productivity and expand local employment opportunities, said the company in a press release. Stevens Towing received $ 1.3 million.

“These grants will help small businesses do what they do best: build critical infrastructure while creating long-term jobs for American workers,” said Lucinda Lessley, Acting Marine Administrator.

The mid-sized freight company was formed in 1913 just south of Charleston.

“Logistics and transportation companies are a critical backbone of our nation’s economy,” said Johnson Stevens, president of the company. “We are committed to doing all we can to help our country recover from the 2020 pandemic and prosper into the future. “

As an added commitment to the future of the industry, Stevens Towing has been offering a Workplace Learning Program for Charleston County School District students since 2017. The program teaches welding skills at the Stevens Towing Shipyard in partnership with Trident Technical College and Caroline apprenticeship.

To date, 22 students from Baptist Hill High School in Hollywood, St. John’s High School in John’s Island, West Ashley High School in Charleston, and one home school have completed this program.

Stevens Towing has its own shipyard to maintain the vessels, which includes 13 tugs that travel inland and 50 barges that cross the country. As a result, a large percentage of Stevens employees are welders and fitters, which the industry lacks a skilled workforce.

The towing company is one of the few companies in the Yonges Island area, and Stevens said only a few in the community know how to weld, which has forced the company and others to look for more. more and more welders.

“We also work on a lot of equipment from local businesses, local ferries, local shipping contractors and dredging companies, tour boats. The need is there to fix other people’s affairs, ”Stevens said.

To lead the welding program, Stevens enlisted former employee and welder William Holmes and local teacher Mathilde Dumond to help create a program.

“Stevens Towing decided they would like to partner with local high schools for a workforce development pipeline, as well as community outreach,” said Dumond. “Not necessarily to have a continuous pipeline of skilled workers, but to get students to learn the trade.”

Students who participate come after lunch and are paid an hourly wage to learn welding. To date, five students have continued their education at Trident Technical College, four of whom are taking welding courses and one taking courses in computer aided design and machine tool technology.

Four other students are currently employed by Stevens Towing.

Holmes, who started training in high school, tried to retire from Stevens Towing years ago, but has kept coming back because he enjoys working with students so much.

“This is very important. There will always be a demand for welders,” he said. “Unless there is something else that can replace welding, there will always be a need.”

Contact Teri Errico Griffis at 843-849-3144.

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