A quiet, word-of-mouth recommendation of Piedmont Technical College’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) in Laurens brought 12 students who are completing their training at Azienda Bergamasca Formazione (ABF) ― a regional technical school in picturesque Bergamo, Italy ― to South Carolina for a month of instruction, training, and manufacturing plant tours.
Since the CAM opened in 2012, industries in the area have taken notice; many have contracted with Piedmont Tech (PTC) to use its state-of-the-art training facility for their own employees. Brawo USA, which produces high-quality forgings across the interstate from the CAM, is part of a global company headquartered near Bergamo. As word of the CAM’s coveted resources traveled the European grapevine last year, ABF officials contacted PTC, and plans for a visit emerged.
“We see America as the biggest country in the world. We are so excited to come here,” said ABF mathematics teacher and chaperone Cristian Alberto Mussinelli. “This is a great opportunity for our students.”
The monthlong program began June 15 and concluded July 15. During their stay, the students (all young men ages 17-21) and their two chaperones stayed in residence halls at Presbyterian College in Clinton. Their schedule included instructional days at the CAM as well as tours of area manufacturing plants. Their weekends were free time to explore the region.
“We are interested in offering our students a training and working period abroad as to enrich their school and life experience,” ABF Professor Salvatore Andrea Messina wrote in a letter to PTC last summer.
The students visited the United States as part of a grant program to expose them to technical trades in other cultures. The program consists of technical training classes in mechatronics and machine tool along with English classes. In addition to their class work, the students visited manufacturers throughout Laurens County and participated in short internships at local plants.
Laurens-area companies hosting tours for the group included ZF Transmissions, CeramTec, Shaw Industries and CCL Label. Companies hosting the Italian students as interns included Brawo, Alupress, Flamespray and Yanfeng.
Roberta Chitó, an ABF English teacher accompanying the group, reflected on her first impressions of the CAM.
“It is clear that people in South Carolina invest in education. That is a crucial point,” she said. “My main observation is that the CAM is very innovative and very clean. Everyone has their own computer to use. Everything is available.”
Rusty Denning, PTC associate vice president for economic development and continuing education, said this visit is the first of its kind for both Piedmont Tech and ABF. “There has been some buzz of expanding this into an annual exchange between our two institutions,” he said. “It would be great if some of our students could make similar educational visits to Italy. It’s definitely worth exploring.”
“This experience lets the students open their minds and have a larger view,” Mussinelli said. “They are discovering new horizons.”