Berkeley County resident Benita Perry drove to Orangeburg on Wednesday to apply for one of the 1,300 job openings at Volvo’s Ridgeville plant.

Perry, who is currently unemployed, said the 50-mile drive was worth it.

“I know it is a long way, but I have to do what I’ve got to do,” Perry said.

If she gets a job, she will be close to the plant, she said.

“I am excited because they really have no jobs in the rural areas. We always have to travel so far. I am excited they are bringing opportunities here,” she said.

Perry was one of hundreds to descend upon the Orangeburg County Conference Center as part of “The Volvo Experience – An Immersive Career Fair.”

The automaker is preparing to hire 1,300 employees during a June mass hiring event in preparation for the company’s rollout of its brand-new, fully electric sports utility vehicle, the EX90.

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The seven-passenger EX90 was unveiled in November 2022

The company plans to roll out the vehicle by the end of this year into early 2024.

“It is the first time that it is being done outside of Sweden,” Volvo spokeswoman Katherine Bergmann said. “They are putting a lot of faith and confidence in our Ridgeville site.

“It is a really, really cool and great opportunity for the entire Lowcountry.”

The company is also planning to increase production of its existing S60 sedan.

The South Carolina Volvo plant employs about 1,500 and produces about 150,000 cars annually. It is the only Volvo plant in North America.

Walterboro resident Sheldon Brown said he is interested in working for Volvo.

“I am changing careers,” Brown said. “I came to the event to see what Volvo has to offer and they have a lot.”

“I am a merchant seaman, but I want to stay on land,” Brown continued. “This is a good opportunity for me.”

Brown said he was impressed by Volvo’s safety record and the fact that the Volvo plant is local.

“That is a big plus,” Brown said. “Normally I travel for work. Now I can stay home. They have great benefits and incentive programs. There is also room for advancement. I am excited.”

Bergmann called the career fair exciting.

“We want people to understand who we are,” Bergmann said. “You can go to any career fair, but we want them to truly connect and get a feel. Our goal has really been immersing everybody through video and sound before they start talking about the other pieces, such as the benefits are great, the team is great, but we want to show them the culture as well.”

Bergmann said the starting hourly rate is $18.50.

“Those are people working in various roles in manufacturing and operations,” she said. “We have an amazing training team that helps them join the team and get ready to start making cars. For team members, we feel like we can teach everybody what we want them to know.”

While manufacturing experience is a plus, the company really wants people who are “excited to join the team, who have a willingness to work in a team.

“We will do the rest.”

Applicants must be 18 or older and have a high school diploma or a GED. New employees will receive one-day of pre-hiring training and must be able to complete a background check, drug screen and physical.

Multi-craft technicians – who are mechanically and electrically competent and able to pass a test – will receive a sign-on bonus.

In addition to pay, Volvo benefits include a savings trust plan, where the company matches about 60 cents on the dollar up to 5 percent of the base pay. Employees are also eligible for a defined contribution plan.

The company offers paid time off to all hourly employees starting with 15 days per year.

Employees also have 14 paid holidays. About six are from Dec. 25 through Dec. 31.

The company offers reimbursement up to $5,250 per calendar year for employees pursuing educational degrees after completing one year of employment.

Between 150 and 200 students from the Orangeburg County School District attended the career fair.

“We are preparing students for the workforce as well as college. It is college and career readiness,” Lake Marion Technology Center Director Dr. Johnny L. Murdaugh Jr. said.

“We are giving them this opportunity to see what industry is available and also working to build a partnership with industry so that we can prepare our students for the skills they need with those individuals,” he said.

The center wants to ensure students have the skills they’ll need to work at Volvo, he said.

“When they graduate or when they turn 18 and they can apply to Volvo, it will be an easy transition without much training because of the fact they have received that information before,” Murdaugh said.

Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School senior Maur-Asia Frazier has a job, but thinks Volvo could be a possibility in the future. She’s excited the company is going electric.

“I would love to have an electric car,” Frazier said. “We are evolving in technology. It is nice to see.”

Those interested in working for Volvo are asked to apply at:

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