South Carolina Workforce Programs Draw Large Employers

State support and a broad network of training programs allows South Carolina to lead the nation in workforce training.

Bill McMeekin
On Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 12:40
Trident Technical College

For businesses with expansion or relocation plans, South Carolina has an offer many industries find hard to refuse: Do business here, and we will train your workforce.

Not only does the state offer a wealth of highly skilled workers and agencies devoted to workforce development, its network of technical colleges is committed to helping new and existing businesses succeed through workforce training programs designed specifically to meet their needs. In most states, technical colleges aid in training employees, but in South Carolina, the 16-technical-college system works hand in hand with businesses to develop customized programs to help them thrive.

“The system’s goal is to help businesses become globally competitive,” says Darrel Staat, president of the SC Technical College System. “To compete, businesses need the best employees with the best training, and we work to provide that. Instead of offering a menu of generic training programs, we start with the businesses themselves – and when you do that, you end up with programs that work and programs the organizations appreciate.”

The flagship, nationally recognized readySC™ program, works directly with eligible new or expanding companies to identify needed employee skill sets, develop curriculum, and recruit and train workers. Consistently ranked among the nation’s top workforce training programs, state-funded readySC™ is provided at little or no cost to companies creating new jobs with competitive wages and benefits. 

Throughout the state, some 2,000 companies, including such heavyweights as The Boeing Co., BMW Manufacturing Co., Michelin North America and Lockheed Martin, have tapped into the readySC™ program, which has provided training for more than 256,000 workers.

Tri Tech Inc., a custom manufacturing and advanced commercial metalworking provider that relocated from Vermont, has flourished thanks to the customized training offered through readySC™. 

“They worked with us to understand the type of work environment we wanted to create in South Carolina, from the skills we needed our technicians to have to the culture we wanted to instill,” says Joe Bacigalupo, Tri Tech president. “They’ve worked closely with our group to make sure that we have the right people in place at the right time with the right skills and motivation.” 

The technical college system offers other workforce development programs to help companies grow and prosper, including QuickJobs Carolina™, a program to equip the workforce with entry-level skills for the state’s high-demand jobs, and Apprenticeship Carolina™, which helps South Carolina employers access the information and technical assistance they need to create demand-driven registered internship programs.

QuickJobs Carolina™, offered at technical colleges across the state, has helped create a skilled and ready labor pool for businesses by training workers in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, construction trades, energy, health care, transportation and logistics. Apprenticeship Carolina™, nationally recognized as one of 10 innovative workforce development best practices, has been successful in showing businesses the value of apprenticeships: Since 2007, the number of registered programs has grown from 90 to 271, with an average of one new employer-sponsored program each week. In addition to programs on the ground, new and existing employers also benefit from the state’s recently reorganized workforce agency, the Department of Employment and Workforce.

The cabinet-level department’s main goal is to connect workers with jobs across the state. The legislation which created it built in safeguards for state taxpayers and businesses, while also putting into place the policies and procedures to help it carry out its mission. South Carolina’s abundance of reliable, well-qualified workers and its investment in workforce development training has helped it beat out the competition for such major employers as BAE Systems, Scientific Research Corp. and®.

The state’s workforce was recently ranked fifth in the nation by CNBC for its quality and availability of workers, low union membership and the success of its worker training programs in placing participants in jobs. South Carolina is also a Right to Work state, ranking third lowest for union membership among states at 4.5 percent, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of National Affairs.

readySC™ has helped recruit and train hundreds of workers for The Boeing Co., which selected North Charleston as a final assembly and delivery site for the manufacture of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

In a specially designed 22,000-square-foot training center at Trident Technical College, Boeing workers are being trained on everything from reading blueprints to sealing together composite plates of the aircraft’s exterior. The state is investing a projected $33 million over the next 15 years on training for the Dreamliner project, part of its commitment to ensure a highly skilled labor force.

“In today’s economic climate, jobs are at the top of everyone’s priority list. We are no exception. readySC™ understands the important role we play in preparing South Carolina’s workforce for today’s industries as well as tomorrow’s economic development opportunities,” says Ann Marie Stieritz, director of readySC™ and vice president of economic development and workforce competitiveness for the South Carolina Technical College System. “Our system provides the workforce education and training infrastructure for the state and is dedicated to increasing the employability of all South Carolinians. We are always thinking jobs.”


A graduate of Saint Bonaventure University, Bill is a veteran business journalist, editor and publisher.