Driving had always been a passion for Donn Eison but the 38-year-old welder didn’t have the money to go back to school to receive his commercial driver’s license training that would allow him to drive trucks for a living. Then a friend let him know about the programs offered through SC Works Greater Upstate.
SC Works Greater Upstate connects job seekers and employers, providing training, covering tuition, finding child care and checking resumes, among other services for those looking for employment. The program, funded through the use of federal dollars, has allowed many to become established in a variety of careers.
Eison participated in a truck driving training course in 2019 paid for through SC Works’ programs — even his hotel during the training was paid for. He then drove for a recycling company in Union before stepping out on his own.
“There’s lots of different things that can be done. And if we can’t do it, our goal is to help them find the solution and work with them to make sure that those barriers are taken care of …” -Doug Stephenson, project director, SC Works Greater Upstate
“[The SC Works staff tries] to help people get careers because they feel as though if you earn a career, you can stay on a place faster than just hopping from job to job,” Eison says. He says that focusing on a career instead of just the next gig can help create job security.
It’s the latter that drew Cecily Baker in. Baker runs an in-home care business, Be Patient Caregiving, that provides nonmedical care to people including older adults and those who recently had surgery. While she knew she wanted to start her own business, Baker wanted enough business administration knowledge to be confident to take that step. She saw the offerings from SC Works and a representative from SC Works went through all the options relevant to what Baker wanted in a program.
“I’ve seen the advertisements in our community,” Baker says. “It helped me get the knowledge I needed.”
SC Works Greater Upstate is organized through the Greenville County Workforce Development Board and Upstate Workforce Board. Other programs offered by these boards include incumbent worker training, ready to work assessments, GED programs and paid work experience.
SC Works assists job seekers with career counseling, job referrals, testing and training services, resume-writing help, and more
Often, those in the programs offered by SC Works pay nothing or very minimal costs, as do employers who need their employees trained. The department can provide grants for worker training when necessary, such as during the coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in many dislocated workers. Employers can receive grant funding to pay for training programs for these workers if they are coming from different industries or if they need additional skills.
A lot of these programs come from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), says Nikki Burgess, talent development specialist supervisor at SC Works Greater Upstate. The act supports a nationwide federal training program from the Department of Labor. The funding for Eison’s training came from WIOA. “That is for in-demand occupational skills, training and on-the-job training, and our primary industries that we focus on are manufacturing, logistics and health care,” Burgess says.
Doug Stephenson, project director at SC Greater Works Upstate, says that although the program prioritizes those with a military service background and those who are on social assistance, services are for everyone. The organization also works hard to ensure people have the opportunity to participate in the various kinds of training provided — even including child care, if necessary.
“There’s lots of different things that can be done,” Stephenson says. “And if we can’t do it, our goal is to help them find the solution and work with them to make sure that those barriers are taken care of, whether it’s financial or personal barriers.”