A deep well of talent is one of the Palmetto State’s most attractive economic assets. With more than 60 colleges and universities contributing to the talent pool, the state’s higher education community is a great advantage, for sure. But South Carolina’s impressive roster of both private and public workforce development programs help give the state the competitive edge needed to attract and retain new business.
A major driver of the state’s workforce development efforts is the readySC™ program, an offshoot of the South Carolina Technical College System. As the state’s largest higher-education sector, SC Technical College System educates more of South Carolina’s undergraduates than all other public colleges and universities combined and is the state’s greatest contributor of talent. readySC™ leverages those numbers to provide companies with customized talent recruitment services, as well as training programs. To date, readySC™ has trained more than a quarter-million people.
“An educated population is one of the most important components of a vital, competitive state. By making a higher education both affordable and accessible, the South Carolina Technical College System works to increase the number of post-secondary certificates, degrees and diplomas in the state,” says Kelly Steinhilper, vice president of communications for the South Carolina Technical College System. “A technical college education is affordable, accessible and relevant for the citizens of South Carolina. It provides the fastest, most flexible path to the workforce. In two years or less, South Carolinians can earn the credentials necessary to fill high-demand, high-paying jobs.”
Another program of the South Carolina Technical College System, Apprenticeship Carolina, works to increase awareness and use of registered apprenticeships in the state by guiding companies through the registered apprenticeship-development process, from initial information to full recognition in the national Registered Apprenticeship System. Since its inception in 2007, the number of registered apprenticeship programs in the state has increased tenfold, from 90 to 918. Apprentices number more than 26,000, up from a mere 777 in the program’s inaugural year. Apprenticeship Carolina adds 120 new apprentices to the roster each month, and helps register at least one new apprenticeship program every week. Steinhilper says companies quickly see the benefits of an apprenticeship program as a practical workforce development tool.
“Apprenticeship programs provide standardized training and operational consistency that, in turn, ensures reliable workforce performance. Apprenticeship can also lead to improved employee retention, as well as increased productivity and quality as apprentices apply their skills and knowledge to their work,” Steinhilper says. “Apprenticeship programs provide bench strength for future leadership – it helps bridge that talent gap that many companies struggle with as their workforce ages.”
Steinhilper says one-third of participating employers in South Carolina offer apprenticeships in more than one career field.
“Many think of traditional trades such as construction, electrician and plumber as the ideal occupations for apprenticeship. Apprenticeship Carolina has broadened that scope to include nontraditional industry sectors like health care, information technology, tourism, advanced manufacturing and service industries,” she says.
“Those educated and trained by the SC Technical College System and its statewide programs provide the necessary services upon which we all rely,” Steinhilper continues. “First responders, registered nurses, medical assistants, welders, CNC operators, radiologic technicians, pharmacy technicians, customer service representatives, culinary professionals, office managers, paralegals and HVAC technicians are just a sampling of the many different careers that technical college students pursue. It is impossible to imagine South Carolina without this essential workforce.”
The state’s workforce development efforts actually begin much earlier than college. In partnership with SC Aerospace, an industry organization, the state’s high schools introduced aerospace curricula in order to foster a career path leading to a growing aerospace industry.
SC Future Makers, a public-private partnership, promotes careers in manufacturing and technology by broadening the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum in middle and high schools. Future Makers recently partnered with the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance in Darlington County to promote STEM programs that educate students on advanced manufacturing skills and careers.
“It’s a great way to bring business and education together in a way that resonates with the students,” says James Richter, marketing director for the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance. “Students can put together a profile online – like a digital resume – where they can express their career interests and display their skills. It brings everything under one hood, and it’s a tremendous opportunity for students to learn about careers in manufacturing.”