S.C. developing strategy to keep worker pipeline filled

South Carolina is continuing its efforts to make sure the “skills gap” doesn’t impact economic development.

The latest example is Sector Strategies, a regional initiative by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce to develop a pipeline that will ensure a steady flow of skilled workers. Sector Strategies relies on collaboration between business, education and government to align what’s being learned in school with what skills are needed by local employers.

Several states are engaged in Sector Strategies initiatives. In South Carolina, regional teams are in the process of assessing existing programs and will be communicating with industry to determine current workforce needs.

The state has been divided into four regions (Central, Pee Dee, South Coast and Upstate) and five critical industries have been identified (diversified manufacturing, business information technology services, health care, transportation/logistics/wholesale and construction).

Sector Strategies is designed to ensure a constant flow of potential workers who already have the skills needed by businesses who are already here. Taking into account the lifetime learning needs of the workforce, Sector Strategies “allows students and workers to move seamlessly between academic and career technical programs,” according to DEW.

A report by the National Governors Association said that when it comes to Sector Strategies, “no other strategy appears to compare in terms of:

  • Using public resources efficiently, effectively, and collectively
  • Showing tangible results, such as improved business productivity and increased earnings for workers
  • Acknowledging regional differences and strengths and actively encouraging local flexibility and action by local programs.”

Sector Strategies comes on the heels of a $100,000 grant South Carolina received from JPMorgan Chase to assess the state’s career preparation system.

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South Carolina a Leader in Growing Women-Owned Businesses


South Carolina is helping to lead the way when it comes to growth in the number of women-owned businesses.

There has been a 53 percent increase in the number of women-owned businesses in the Palmetto State since 2007, the sixth best of any state in the nation and outpacing the national growth rate of 45 percent. Those numbers come from the 2016 State of Women-Owned Business Report, commissioned by American Express Open.

Florida ranked first (67 percent growth rate), followed by Georgia (64 percent).

The report estimates there are 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States. Their growth is well above the 9 percent overall U.S. business growth rate. They’ve also been better job creators, too.

“Employment in women-owned businesses has increased by 18 percent since the recession, while among all businesses employment has declined 1 percent since 2007,” the report states. “The strongest employment growth among women-owned firms is seen among firms employing between 50 and 99 workers. These firms have spearheaded a 27 percent increase in employment since 2007.”

The Palmetto State’s performance has been relatively consistent. The 2014 report from American Express ranked South Carolina sixth since 1997 in the growth of women-owned businesses. In 2013, South Carolina ranked 11th.

The report also examined the top 50 metro areas in terms of “economic clout,” looking at the number of women-owned firms, number of jobs created and revenue growth. There, Charlotte (whose metro includes parts of South Carolina) was No. 1.

There are a number of South Carolina manufacturers who seek out women-owned businesses as part of supplier diversity programs. There are also federal tax breaks for companies that use minority and women-owned suppliers.


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S.C. apprenticeships earn national notice

South Carolina’s innovative apprenticeship programs continue to earn national notice.

The S.C. Technical College System’s Apprenticeship Carolina program recently received a $200,000 federal grant that will be used to promote awareness of apprenticeships. Apprenticeship Carolina is the U.S. Department of Labor’s official liaison for registering adult and youth apprenticeship programs.

In addition, the S.C. Workforce Development Board recently awarded a $148,000 grant to Tri-County Technical College and $119,000 to the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce for apprenticeship programs.

Tri-County will use the grant to help individuals with criminal records and skill deficiencies gain entry-level jobs in highway construction. The Charleston grant will support scholarships for 68 apprentices.

Apprenticeship Carolina currently counts 6,049 active apprentices in South Carolina, with more than 120 apprentices being added each month. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania estimates there are 300,000 people in apprenticeships nationwide.

South Carolina’s progressive approach to apprenticeships received mention in a recent Wharton report. The report examines whether apprenticeships would help U.S. firms who are struggling to find skilled workers – and whether the business community would be receptive to the concept.

“We have seen that in a couple of states, South Carolina most notably, they have adopted different kinds of tax credit regimes to help support employers who are sponsoring apprenticeships,” said John Colborn, director of the Aspen Institute’s Skills for America’s Future program.

The report also mentions efforts by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to create federal tax credits for apprenticeships similar to those in South Carolina.


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Another Gold Shovel for South Carolina

South Carolina continues to be a national leader in economic development, as evidenced by its third straight Gold Shovel Award.

The awards, presented annually by Area development magazine, recognize states “for their large numbers of high-impact economic development projects.” In addition to the Palmetto State, Gold Shovel winners included California, Ohio, Tennessee, Nevada and Utah.

South Carolina won in the category of states with populations of 3-5 million. Its top projects included Volvo Car Group (Berkeley County), Red Ventures (Lancaster County), Mercedes Benz Vans (Charleston County) and Rite Aid (Spartanburg County).

“Both Volvo Car Group and Mercedes- Benz Vans plan to build $500 million manufacturing operations in the Charleston area that combined will employ nearly 3,800 workers,” the magazine noted. “This also means that many of the more than 200 automotive suppliers in the state are in growth mode.”

The Volvo and Mercedes projects also ranked nationally among Area Development’s top automotive projects of the year.

“Volvo expects to hire up to 2,500 workers over the next decade. The plant is expected to generate nearly $5 billion in total annual economic output,” the magazine writes. Mercedes-Benz Vans, meanwhile, “will become one of the largest industrial employers in the region.”

Area Development also pointed out that South Carolina’s road, rail and port infrastructure make it “a preferred location for distribution and logistics operations.”

South Carolina previously earned a Gold Shovel in 2014 and 2015 and a Silver Shovel in 2013.


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South Carolina earns grant to improve workforce development

children-99507_960_720South Carolina will be putting together a plan that aligns education and industry needs to better prepare the state’s students for the workforce, thanks to a recent grant.

The Palmetto State was one of 24 states receiving $100,000 each through the New Skills for Youth initiative from financial giant JPMorgan Chase. The money will go toward assessing the state’s career preparation system in order to develop the new plan.

The New Skills for Youth initiative’s goal is to strengthen career-focused education, according to a release from the S.C. Department of Education.

“This will be a win-win for students, families, and local businesses across South Carolina,” announced S.C. Education Superintendent Molly Spearman.

Judges of the grant application found that South Carolina “showed promise in its career readiness plans and indicated strongly that this work is a priority,” according to the release.

Nationwide, industry continues to express concern about the “skills gap” between what today’s high school and college graduates know and what they need to know in order to become productive workers. Workforce development strategies that link the private sector, K-12 education system and higher education are areas where the National Governors Association recently reported seeing progress.

One of JPMorgan Chase’s partners in the initiative is the Council of Chief State School Officers, which has encouraged states to make high school programs more responsive to the labor market.


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Economic impact of parks, tourism rising

FortSumter2009After a state-sponsored study found that tourism’s economic impact in South Carolina is $19.1 billion per year, some federal data reiterated the industry’s value.

The National Park Service recently found that nationwide, their facilities produce a $32 billion annual economic impact and support 295,000 jobs. In South Carolina, the economic impact of national parks alone was $105.9 million in 2015.

The economic impact in the Palmetto State was up approximately 2.7 percent compared to 2014. Here is the individual impact of some national parks in South Carolina:

  • $60.5 million –
  • $17.7 million – Cowpens National Battlefield
  • $13.4 million – Kings Mountain National Military Park
  • $5.9 million – Ninety Six National Historic Site
  • $5.1 million – Congaree National Park
  • $3.4 million – Charles Pinckney National Historic Site

In addition to the business from national parks, South Carolina’s state parks generated $26.9 million in direct revenue during fiscal 2014-15, according to the S.C. Department of Parks Recreation & Tourism. That total was up more than 10 percent from the previous fiscal year.

The leisure and hospitality industry is responsible for 11.3 percent of employment in South Carolina, according to the state Department of Commerce. The state collected nearly $37 million in admissions taxes in fiscal 2014-15, an 8.5 percent increase.

“It enhances our quality of life. It provides a livelihood for one in 10 of us. And it has a tremendous impact on the rest of our state’s economy,” SCPRT Director Duane Parrish told an audience earlier this year.

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Study: We may be underestimating manufacturing

A recent study takes a look at the economic impact of manufacturing and concludes traditional measurements may be selling the sector short.

The Manufacturing Alliance for Productivity and Innovation used data from the University of Maryland to estimate that every dollar of manufacturing generates an additional $3.60 of activity throughout the U.S. economy. That compares to a $1.40 estimate from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The study also makes the argument that manufacturing is linked to 32 percent of full-time U.S. jobs and responsible for 32 percent of gross domestic product. Traditional measures estimate that manufacturing’s share of GDP is 11 percent and is responsible for 9 percent of jobs.

How? The MAPI study extends manufacturing’s reach into other sectors. For example:

“Manufacturing plant activities lie near the center of a substantial and complex value chain that is composed of an upstream supply chain that gathers materials and services and a downstream sales chain that moves goods to market and sells and services manufactured goods.”

Therefore, automakers’ demand for steel and aluminum should be taken into account as well as what is made and sold with raw materials. The study also accounts for manufacturing’s presence in areas such as research and development, logistics, marketing and corporate management, as well its demand for utilities.

As the MAPI study points out, “manufactured products directly or indirectly transact with every other sector in the economy, including agriculture, mining, professional services, and finance.”


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