A confluence of labor market forces, combined with an availability of federal funds, have produced a solution targeting two problems at once: unemployment and industry-specific labor shortages.
A new state program unveiled by S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster in partnership with state technical schools in June will take a portion of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding and provide scholarships for training in 11 high-demand career fields to state residents left unemployed in the wake of the pandemic.
The $8 million program waives tuition, fees and a job search requirement for individuals receiving unemployment insurance who attend one of a series of vocational courses. The courses are designed to prepare graduates for available jobs in no more than 16 weeks, and will be provided by the state’s technical colleges.
The initiative comes as South Carolina prepares to end federal unemployment program benefits by the end of June at McMaster’s directive. Critics said the benefits dampened motivation for the state’s 87,000 unemployed individuals to seek work.
“Unemployment is not a career,” said Dan Ellzey, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce. “This free training could lead to a certification or credential, which provides you access into new or higher paying jobs."
The following 11 courses are aimed at providing certifications for high-demand jobs across the state:
- Patient Care Technician
- Emergency Medical Technician
- IT professionals with CompTIA A+ certification
- Truck driving with a commercial driver’s license
- Jobs in manufacturing with ManuFirstSC certification
- Jobs in advanced manufacturing with MSSC certification
- Health and safety expertise with OSHA certification
- Operations jobs with Lean Six Sigma training
- Heavy Equipment Operator
- Lineman Technician
Trident Technical College already has some of these courses up and running and is in the planning and execution process for others. For example, the school has been working for months to offer truck driver training, but the trucks have yet to arrive.
Cathy Almquist, vice president for education at Trident Tech, said the school expects the trucks to arrive by early July and will have the vehicles modified and ready for instruction later that month.
Anyone collecting unemployment insurance can now sign up for Trident Tech’s basic manufacturing ManuFirstSC course and learn the fundamentals of Lean Six Sigma, OSHA and MSSC all at once. The course prepares graduates for manufacturing jobs and replaces a year of experience in the field, Almquist said.
The ManuFirst course was originally developed by Trident Tech in response to demand for workers with some knowledge of the field from Boeing, Volvo, Mercedes and other local manufacturing companies, she said.
“We worked with employers to develop a program that would provide someone with no manufacturing experience the basic skills and knowledge of advanced manufacturing,” Almquist said.
Other programs will either be ready in the fall or already exist in other forms at Trident Tech, she said.
“I hope this is a permanent part of unemployment insurance,” Almquist said. “We build the middle class. We take individuals who don’t have training and give them that training so they are qualified for good, middle-class jobs.”