From organizing job fairs to funneling grant money to local businesses, the Greenville County Workforce Development Board oversees a substantial amount of resources that are dedicated to helping the county’s businesses and employees. It’s a hidden gem that local business leaders say has tremendously helped them find new talent and train their current employees to unlock potential growth.
Connie Caldwell, general manager of Carolina Heating, has this advice to business owners: Build a strong partnership with your local business services consultant from SC Works Greater Upstate. Caldwell has used the operational arm of the Greenville County Workforce Development Board many times over the years, and the grants Carolina Heating has used have increased her employees’ technical skills, cultural skills and leadership skills.
What is the Workforce Development Board?
The Workforce Development Board receives money from the U.S. Department of Labor and uses an operator, in Greenville’s case SC Works, to carry out its services. Greenville County is so large that it has its own 19-member board, which work with SC Works Greater Upstate to facilitate programming, says Dean Jones, the executive director of Greenville’s Workforce Development Department. The board, which is made up of diverse business leaders and owners in Greenville County, provides oversight to Jones’ department.
The board works on a local strategy and promotion plan each year that is required by the Department of Labor, said Jones. The members of the board want to make sure it is representative of the voice of local employers.
The department received around $2 million last year from the federal government, says Jones. That money goes to training more than 400 employees each year through various programs and grants. Jones says an average of about 1,500 users a week visit the SC Works website.
“We probably work with about 500-plus businesses between those who are just looking for workers, those who are applying for grants that we offer, those who are establishing work-based learning,” said Jones.
Money from the board is funneled to programs by SC Works
While the board oversees the money coming into the department, the department materializes its programs through SC Works Greater Upstate.
“SC Works Greater Upstate is basically your statewide workforce system,” said Johnnie-Lynn Crosby, the organization’s regional business solutions director. Through contracted companies and partnerships with businesses, they connect business customers to job seekers. “We see all of our business customers as business partners, and we are working with them to solve any kind of recruitment, retention or training challenge,” explained Crosby.
There is no fee to participate in SC Works. Employers looking for employees need only to register as an employer on the SC Works website. And the pandemic hasn’t slowed things too much: Virtual events have taken the place of in-person events.
“The services are available, and they are free. Well, not free; they’ve already paid for them in their taxes, so why not take advantage, right?” said Crosby.
These services include job fairs, incumbent worker training grants, on-the-job training programs, job profiling, job matching, skill testing and standardized testing.
Businesses use SC Works programs to their advantage
“Greenville County is dedicated just to make [itself] one of the best places to work,” said Caldwell, recommending the resources provided by SC Works. “I think that business leaders and owners should know that there are services out there that can act as your second arm in recruiting.”
A lot of people just see SC Works as something like an unemployment office, she said, but it’s so much more.
“They’re helping displaced workers, under- and overqualified workers in different positions,” Caldwell explained. “They’re helping people that move in to the area from somewhere else.”
Caldwell recalled a job fair SC Works held at a company going out of business for the displaced workers. She said that Carolina Heating was able to pick up some great employees from that fair. Another time, Carolina Heating was able to receive a grant from the organization to bridge a pay gap it had with an employee who had previously made more money at another company but whose experience didn’t match Carolina Heating’s salary levels. The grant helped the company keep the employee it had hired, while boosting his skills to fit into the proper salary guidelines.
Chad Stull of BlueRidge Thermoforming echoed Caldwell’s sentiments. BlueRidge Thermoforming reached out to SC Works and received incumbent worker training on quality management and digital systems.
“They’ve got a tremendous amount of services they can help you with,” said Stull. “They’ve got so many resources and methods to help employers, I don’t think any one employer would ever fully comprehend all that’s available.
“My method is when I come across something that I need help with, I just reach out and ask, because they’re there to help,” he added.
The help is something that Jones and Crosby want businesses to know exists.
“Any time [businesses are] struggling with anything recruitment-, retention- or training-related … give us a call,” said Crosby, “and if it’s not something we can provide a solution to, we can almost always identify someone who can.”