After four productive years – including a unique partnership with MTU America – Brooks Smith is leaving the Aiken County Career and Technology Center to take a position with the Greenville School District.

“I was crushed,” Superintendent Dr. Beth Everitt said. “Mr. Smith has done an amazing job with career development and has earned a reputation throughout the state.”

His success was good for Smith as well as the District, Everitt said. It led to a promotion as the executive director of career and technology education. Greenville’s school system has more than 70,000 students and four career centers.

He regrets leaving Aiken, but “this is an opportunity to serve in a bigger capacity,” Smith said.

During his four years at the Center, other initiatives have continued to increase public awareness. New programs have been added and expanded, such as criminal justice and emergency/fire management. Three more will get underway next month.

The Center has also enjoyed the evolution of partnerships with Aiken Technical College.

With the District’s support three years ago, Smith established an introductory program for 10th-graders – giving them a chance to learn and experience the opportunities there.

This fall, the Center has a newly-created position; Mallory Bodine will provide career-based activities for seventh-graders at six middle schools.

“It’s been absolutely great here,” said health science instructor Teresa Hayden. “One major thing about Mr. Smith is his support of the Career Center and the advancement of its programs.”

Two years ago, the School District and ATC began working with Tognum (now MTU America), the large-engine manufacturer with a then-new plant in Graniteville. For the first time in the United States, MTU created an apprenticeship program for high school juniors and seniors. They have split time between the Career Center and the plant; three students will formally graduate on Aug. 7.

Twelve rising seniors and juniors will take part in the program this year. Smith credits MTU America Vice President Joerg Klisch and the company’s interest in establishing a German-based approach to apprenticeships.

A native of North Augusta, Smith was influenced by his late parents – Robert, an architect, and Nancy, a teacher and administrator. He graduated from Clemson University with a blend of his passions – teaching industrial arts at a Gaffney junior high school for 14 years. Along the way, Smith also earned a master’s degree in industrial arts and later another master’s in administration. After returning to the area, he served as a South Aiken High School assistant principal and then as the Aiken Middle School principal.

Those opportunities gave Smith the chance to expand his interest in career clusters and the value of teaching students those skills that are job-specified. Teenagers working computer aided draft and design, electricity, automotive technology and others will have strong employability, Smith said.

“Brooks has done incredible things,” said King Laurence, the Aiken District’s associate superintendent of instruction. “When he got to the (Center), he built on the base and went way beyond it. He has expanded opportunities for students across the District.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter.