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South Carolina’s Workforce Ready and Able

Apprenticeship programs and other education/industry/government partnerships lead efforts

By Bill Lewis on December 11, 2015

Todd Bennett

Brian Rauschenbach is bullish on career prospects in the Palmetto State.

“There are many wonderful career opportunities in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities,” says Rauschenbach, one of six youth apprenticeship consultants for Apprenticeship Carolina™, referring to the diverse array of high-quality jobs that have been – and continue to be – created in South Carolina.

With jobs increasingly plentiful, especially in the advanced manufacturing sector, the state is making a concerted effort to ensure that the next generation of workers is not only aware of the new opportunities, but in a position to take advantage of them.

To that end, industry and government are working hand-in-hand with local schools and technical colleges on a variety of workforce development initiatives, all designed to help produce the qualified candidates that companies will need as they continue to expand their businesses.

Advisor Program Looks to the Future

One of the most important initiatives comes courtesy of the South Carolina Department of Commerce, which has installed 12 Regional Workforce Advisors who facilitate communication between the business and education communities.

“You can’t have successful economic development without a successful workforce,” says Elisabeth, Kovacs, workforce development manager at the Department of Commerce. “Preparing emerging talent for the workplace and the community is key to our success.”

As South Carolina’s economy continues to expand and many workers at major employers in the state near retirement age, the demand is increasing for talent with the necessary skills in sectors such as manufacturing, technology and marketing.

The Regional Workforce Advisors (RWAs) assist educators in making learning relevant to workforce needs. They help connect schools and industry so they can collaborate on workforce issues and communicate with  business on the need to create apprenticeships and job shadowing opportunities.

RWAs also connect students and adult learners to future employment opportunities, and inform students and parents about current and future career opportunities.

readySC™, Apprenticeship Carolina

The state’s highly regarded readySC™ program —a division of the SC Technical College System — offers an innovative program that provides recruiting and training assistance to companies that are expanding or looking to move to South Carolina.

And the aforementioned Apprenticeship Carolina program, established in 2007, works with companies looking to establish Registered Apprenticeship programs, which, by definition, feature on the job training, job-related education and scalable wage progression.

“This is not your grandparents’ apprenticeship program, it’s apprenticeship evolved,” emphasizes Rauschenbach, recognizing that many people believe apprenticeships are limited to trades like construction.

“There are over a thousand different occupations that can be registered across industries like manufacturing, construction, energy, logistics and warehousing, as well as IT, hospitality and tourism,” says Kelly Steinhilper, vice president of communications for the SC Technical College System.

For the 746 companies that already have registered programs in place, the benefits are obvious: it’s an opportunity to begin building their workforce pipeline early, while at the same time earning a $1,000 South Carolina state tax credit for each registered apprentice employee who works at least seven months during each year of the program, for up to four years.

For young people, particularly the high school students taking part in one of the 79 youth apprenticeship programs registered across the state, it’s a chance to begin learning how to work with adults and a stepping stone to the work world.

Earning While Learning

Consider the experiences of Joe Rojek and Christopher Dunn, two recent high school graduates who are a part of the youth apprenticeship program at IFA Rotorion, which manufactures drive shafts for BMW and other automakers at its plant in Ladson in the Charleston area.

Both learned about the opportunity via the career development program at their high school and worked 8 hours a week at IFA Rotorion during their senior year, even as they took classes at Trident Technical College, credits that count toward the two-year degree program that both plan to complete before transferring to four-year colleges.

“After two years and 2,000 hours of work they will have completed the program and will be eligible for job openings in our maintenance department,” says Joe Brinson, associate development supervisor at IFA Rotorion. “They are getting two years of college education for no out-of-pocket expense, as all the students in the apprenticeship program attend Trident Tech tuition free.”


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