By Cheryl Stanton
S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce
South Carolina is blessed with a robust economy. Existing companies are expanding their footprints in the state, while new companies are deciding South Carolina is the place to establish roots.
This is great news for our state. Our unemployment rate is at a 16-year low, at 4.3%, and more than 2.2 million people are employed – a historic high. People are also showing confidence in the job market and are returning to workforce.
But even during these robust economic times, we still find gaps in our workforce. Particularly, in the middle-skill positions where individuals need certifications, licensing or some education beyond high school, but not necessarily a four-year college degree.
A survey of South Carolina’s labor force shows that while 33% of people age 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or above, only 17% of jobs require that level of education; and 37% of the labor force has a high school degree or less, but only 29% of all jobs require that level of education. The vast majority of jobs, 54%, require an education level from a high school diploma to just below a bachelor’s degree, but only 28% of the labor force falls within that category, creating the skills gap.
In order to continue to support economic development efforts, we must provide businesses with skilled workers to fill that gap. Much like how companies develop supply chains, we are developing a supply chain for talent, not just for today’s needs but for future needs too.
In 2015 under the direction of former Gov. Nikki Haley and supported by legislation, our team at the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce partnered with the S.C. Department of Commerce, S.C. Department of Education and the S.C. Technical College System to build skilled workforces regionally. The approach is based on data that is specific to each region and addresses the actual talent needs rather than the perceived ones.
A team, consisting of people from the four agencies, regional workforce boards and other organizations, examined statewide data and identified the high-growth, high-demand industries for South Carolina – diversified manufacturing, construction, health care, information technology and transportation and logistics.
The team then aligned the state into four regions – the Upstate, Central, Pee Dee and South Coast – and identified the top key industries in those regions. Now we are delving deeper by working with businesses to determine what skills, education and certifications might be needed for their current and future jobs. This gets us away from matching one candidate with one job.
By working with the business we can tailor training and education for their industry’s talent needs and deliver to a qualified and skilled workforce. By providing individuals with training and education, they will find opportunities to fill the jobs at hand.
We want the state to continue its robust growth and that will happen as businesses find South Carolina’s business environment is right for business.
Cheryl M. Stanton is the executive director for the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce which matches people to jobs and provides a bridge for individuals who find themselves out of work for no fault of their own.