By John Lummus, president & CEO, Upstate SC Alliance
People. Talent. Workforce. Opportunities.
Whatever the term is, this year’s events remind us that people are at the core of business. People are the consumers who choose to purchase products and services. And people – and their ideas – are what make products and services possible.
That’s also why workforce availability has recently reigned as the No. 1 driver in business location decisions. When the pandemic spread across the globe earlier this year, the United States was in a competitive labor market where job seekers had the upper hand – with historically low unemployment rates, like the 2.0% reported in the Upstate in February.
Now, that’s changed. Due to slowdowns in travel, events, retail and dining, more people are seeking work. In Upstate counties, unemployment ranges from 7.5% to 13.1%, meaning we once again have many people seeking careers – and the opportunity to close the Upstate’s skills gap.
For those displaced from other jobs, institutions such as Greenville Technical College, Tri-County Technical College, Spartanburg Community College and Piedmont Technical College offer pathways to new careers.
In the Upstate, we’re fortunate to have a number of logistics, health and manufacturing companies who have weathered the pandemic’s economic impacts. These companies have modified their operations for safety, continuing to provide employment.
Our research team explored recent Upstate job postings and found that transportation and logistics and health care are among the top hiring industries. And technical colleges equip candidates with the qualifications needed to meet these opportunities. Take, for example, commercial driver’s license (CDL) training, certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse or certified forklift operator programs.
The 16 colleges within the S.C. Technical College System offer many affordable, accessible training programs for individuals to “skill up” — even offering “earn while you learn” apprenticeships, co-ops and scholars programs that equip people to work for some of the region’s largest employers.
Upward economic mobility
What’s more, these institutions promote economic diversity and prosperity, measuring success by their ability to ensure students earn a high-quality credential that leads to a family-sustaining wage. And 90% of tech system graduates are placed within their fields of study within a year of completion.
“We serve traditional and nontraditional students, first-generation students, students of color, English-language learners, students with learning disabilities and many others,” Tri-County Technical College President Galen DeHay recently wrote. “Additionally, many of our students come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and many are raising a family themselves. No matter their situation, our students have one thing in common: They are driven to succeed.”
Historically, community college enrollment spikes during economic downturns, and we expect the COVID-19 pandemic to be no different. As a result, technical colleges will again play a critical role in jump-starting the economy in our state. And they are well equipped to lead the way because of their commitment to providing an accessible and affordable high-quality education and to being a partner in meeting the workforce needs of businesses, industries, health care facilities and community organizations.
And, like every other industry, higher education is reinventing itself for the new normal. While a lot is still unknown, we know this: The majority of new and emerging jobs will still require education and training beyond a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree.
We also know that technical experts are critical to our nation’s economy – and to the Upstate region’s fabric of engineering and manufacturing opportunities. After graduation, the majority of them will stay close to their colleges, contribute to the local workforce, buy homes, raise families and become the next generation of community leaders.
As we focus on maximizing our potential as individuals and a community, today’s training programs will open the doors to tomorrow’s possibilities.
Whether you’re looking to put existing skills to work or take on new talents, the job board at MoveUpstateSC.com has more than 4,560 active postings that showcase what the future could hold.
Are you up for it?
About the Upstate SC Alliance:
Formed in 2000, the Upstate South Carolina Alliance is a public/private regional economic development organization whose mission is to position the Upstate to excel in the global economy through strategic marketing, collaboration and thought leadership.