12 for Life Program

12 for Life Quick Links: 
What is 12 For Life | The Planning | The Curriculum | Operations | Support Functions | The Facts

What is 12 for Life?

12 for Life seeks to instill in students the belief that, if they complete a full 12 years of education, they will have better lives. By combining traditional classroom instruction with jobs inside a real manufacturing plant, the unique partnership between Southwire Company and the Florence City School System ensures students receive a balanced education. They get the best of all worlds by working regular hours, earning actual wages and – most importantly – learning skills they will need after they graduate.

The Planning

As it has since it started in 1950, Southwire strives to create a positive impact in every community in which it operates. That sense of community stewardship has taken many forms over the years and continues to be a driving principle of the company.

12 for Life stands as a perfect example of that philosophy – one that grew out of a desire to help solve a problem.  At the time plans for the program started to form, statistics showed one in three students starting first grade would not graduate from high school. For a variety of reasons, many students felt dropping out of school was their only option.

Today, 12 for Life helps to reverse that trend by highlighting the true value of an education.

Through 12 for Life, students gain valuable, hands-on experience of the manufacturing process as they produce finished goods that are shipped to actual Southwire customers. In the process, they learn the importance of safety, quality and productivity in the workplace.

To learn more, click the brochure at the left to download.

The Curriculum

Cooperative education is the most common form of work-based learning. Schools and employers work together to provide on-the-job experience that fits students’ career choices. This approach allows students to apply in an actual work setting the knowledge they gain in the classroom. It also provides for a smooth transition into the workforce or to college or technical school.

In a typical cooperative education program, employers provide paid, part-time jobs in the students’ career fields. A coordinator arranges placements, develops a training plan and makes periodic visits to the employer’s business. Together, the coordinator and the employer evaluate students’ performance.

12 for Life functions as a modified DCT program. The coordinator works on-site to provide classroom instruction and assist in supervision at the job site. A single manufacturing facility houses all students, the coordinator and Southwire supervisors.

Students attend class in a traditional setting for part of the day and work a four-hour shift in the plant for the remainder. Some instruction takes place in the manufacturing area while the students are working. Southwire employees share their time and experience through a mentoring program that provides one-on-one support for students.

The 12 for Life curriculum uses traditional textbooks for a cooperative education class, as well as a work ethics program. It also employs WorkKeys, a job skills assessment system that measures real-world skills employers believe are critical to job success.

Students learn about career opportunities through tours of the other Southwire facilities to see the different jobs available. Guest speakers share the day-to-day details and requirements, providing a personal glimpse of what those jobs entail.  Employers regularly identify work ethic as an increasingly important part of worker success. Many express concern that a strong work ethic is increasingly difficult to find among employees and job applicants. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 80 percent of workers who lose their jobs do so not because of lack of occupational skills, but because of poor work ethics. The 10 work ethic traits identified and included in instruction through 12 for Life are:

  • Attendance

  • Character

  • Teamwork

  • Appearance

  • Attitude

  • Productivity

  • Organizational Skills

  • Communication

  • Cooperation

  • Respect

The work ethics program leads to three primary areas of success, which include:

  • Students beginning employment with positive work ethics skills that enhance their value as employees.

  • Instructors developing more motivated and attentive students.

  • Employers acquiring employees with desirable work habits.

To be eligible for 12 for Life, students must be at least 16 years old, pass a drug screening and be selected as needing additional support to complete high school. Each student receives school credit for work completed in the classroom and other credit for activity on the job.

Normally, students receive three credits during the school year, although earned credit hours can vary depending on individual situations. High school graduation coaches, counselors and the program administrator select students enrolled in 12 for Life. In addition, each student must complete Southwire’s hiring process.


So, what actually happens inside the 12 for Life plant?

As one of the nation’s leading wire and cable manufacturers, Southwire manufactures a variety of products, including building wire used in residential and commercial construction. To provide a better understanding of the manufacturing operation, here is a brief description of the products and processes.


Using a machine operator and a set-up person, this machine coils and cuts 25 or 50-foot lengths of wire from larger spools. Students inspect and place individual coils in the appropriate package. The process produces 12 AWG and 14 AWG NM, two of the most popular wire sizes used in residential wiring. The repacked wire is sold through retail stores and electrical distributors.

These packages are boxed into master cartons, then shipped to one of Southwire’s distribution service centers or directly to retail customers.


This workstation consists of specially designed tables, jigs and equipment that students use to insert insulated wire into flexible conduit and install fittings before packing the wire. Each workstation uses two to three students, depending on the product. Whips include metallic and non-metallic conduits and are produced in a wide variety of conductor sizes. Whips are commonly used for connecting air conditioners, pumps, motors, compressors, swimming pool equipment and similar projects.


Using a conveyor, six to seven students assemble a variety of small spools from components. This is a challenging and rewarding workstation as effective teamwork is essential. Many of Southwire’s manufacturing facilities use these spools to package and ship wire products.


Here students use a specially designed table and a jig to build wooden reels.  Each workstation requires two to three students to assemble reels in a variety of sizes. Southwire typically uses these reels to package and ship large wire products.

Support Functions

To keep the plant running smoothly, students perform additional support jobs, such as shipping, quality assurance and data entry. Students rotate periodically through each workstation and support job to gain experience through the entire manufacturing process.

The 12 for Life plant works on three daily, four-hour shifts, which are supervised by Southwire personnel. The program mirrors the local school calendar each week Monday through Friday.  To further encourage students to complete the program and earn their diplomas, Southwire places the names of those who graduate from 12 for Life on a preferred hiring list for future employment opportunities. Those on the list receive a signing bonus, if hired by Southwire, in addition to an increased rate of pay.

The Facts

12 for Life began operation on January 4, 2007 with a total of 71 students participating in the program.  Students receive school credits for both the classroom component and work portion. They earn 1.5 units per semester toward required elective classes. Upon successful completion of 12 for Life and earning a high school diploma, the student will be placed on a preferred hiring list for Southwire Company.