South Carolina Colleges Build Workforce Muscle

Clemson University, Savannah River National Laboratory and the University of South Carolina are heavily into research.

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Florence-Darlington Technical College
Brian McCord

South Carolina’s success in attracting new investment, promoting business expansion and creating jobs is in no small part owed to the quality of its labor force and the availability of skilled and knowledgeable workers.

The state is a national leader in attracting and keeping college-educated residents.

More than 240,000 students are enrolled in one of South Carolina’s 33 public institutions or 24 private schools, and the state is home to world-renowned research assets that include the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, one of only 17 U.S. Department of Energy laboratory facilities in the United States.

The 16 technical colleges spread throughout the state, part of the SC Technical College System, offer degree, diploma, certificate and continuing education programs in more than 130 fields. From students earning college credit to those continuing their education, nearly one in every 18 state residents over age 18 is served by the member colleges of the system, which also works closely with employers to create programs designed to meet the specific needs of businesses and industries and expand the skill sets of the state’s workforce.

Not only is the state a leader in producing highly educated individuals, it also attracts them. South Carolina ranked fourth among states for the net number of college-educated individuals entering or migrating to the state, and it ranked in the top 10 among states for net in-migration from 2005 through 2008.

At Florence-Darlington Technical College, the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT) provides leading-edge technology training for prospective and existing businesses, and is a major component of the region’s workforce training and economic development efforts. The institute opened in 2007 in a 177,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art training facility that features a $34 million advanced manufacturing training center that utilizes cutting-edge equipment.

The state is also home to the University of South Carolina, a premier academic and research institution and one of only 62 public institutions to earn the Carnegie Foundation’s top research designation. The university has pioneering world-class initiatives in nanotechnology and hydrogen research. USC’s College of Engineering and Computing also partners with industries to conduct groundbreaking research aimed at developing and commercializing the use of fuel cells as part of the National Science Foundation’s Industry and University Cooperative Research Program (NSF I-URC).  

“Science is always evolving, and we take on initiatives in all disciplines, from the sciences and engineering to humanities and the arts,” says Stephen Kresovich, USC vice president of research and graduate education.

USC is in the midst of developing the $250 million Innovista research campus and community in Columbia, where researchers can live and work. The development, USC officials say, will be a key driver of a new economy built on a foundation of technology such as future fuels, health sciences, nanotech and environmental sciences. 

Innovation abounds at Clemson University, ranked by U.S. News & World Report for its high-quality Environmental Engineering and Science programs. Its International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) in Greenville is home to some of the nation’s most advanced automotive, motorsports and transportation research, along with graduate auto engineering programs. 


“This research often leads to high-technology jobs that allow our graduates to stay in the state and thereby contribute to South Carolina’s economy,” says John Kelly, vice president of economic development at Clemson University.


Savannah River National Laboratory has 870 employees working in areas such as energy security and homeland security. For example, the lab works closely with the FBI to help protect the nation from crimes involving radiological material.


“We put science to work that gives the FBI more ability to conduct investigations that help keep our nation safe from nuclear terrorism,” says Paul Deason, Savannah River National Laboratory director.


Research to advance technology and provide knowledge-based solutions to industry and government is conducted at the South Carolina Research Authority Innovation Centers (SCRA), located at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, Clemson University, the University of South Carolina in Columbia and the Greenwood Genetic Center. Through its SCLaunch® program, SCRA, a global leader in applied research and commercialization services, provides entrepreneurs with seed capital and services to help them build technology startups and create high wage-earning jobs for South Carolinians. 


“We put companies in these innovation centers and provide them with the services to help them survive and thrive,” says Dave McNamara, SCLaunch® executive director. 


Jason Zasky is a journalist, author and media entrepreneur with a background in print and online magazines. He is co-founder of Failure magazine, the critically-acclaimed online pu... more

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Fri, 10/27/2017 - 19:55