By John Lummus
3.4 percent, 3.8 percent and 3.9 percent. Those were the 2018 average unemployment rates for the Upstate, South Carolina and United States, respectively.
And the trend has continued in 2019.
Tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of people seeking work is a top indicator of economic health.
Low unemployment rates are a good sign for communities: they show that many people are participating in the workforce, enhancing and enjoying quality of life in their communities.
Low unemployment rates can also create challenges for the business community, as companies may not be able to find and recruit the employees they need in a competitive labor environment.
“The Talent Issue,” as many call it, is not unique to our region – though it is critical to address, inlight of the 27,208 new jobs that were announced in the Upstate from 2014-2018.
What’s driving the talent issue?
Economic development marketing agency Development Counsellors International (DCI) explored the issue in its 2018 white paper, “Go Fish: How to Reel in Tomorrow’s Talent.”
“Boomers account for one-third of today’s workforce – and they’re retiring,” DCI reports. Add to that: emerging technology altering opportunities and a “skills gap” in STEM careers.
In its 2018 Manufacturing Skills Gap Study, Deloitte reported that 2.4 million positions in manufacturing could go unfilled over the next 10 years due to a lack of specialized skills needed for advanced manufacturing and technology jobs.
This is not just the case in manufacturing; professional positions in healthcare, IT, software development, accounting—these all become harder to fill in a tight labor market.
Low unemployment not only affects existing industry, it also affects our ability to recruit industry because prospective companies often have concerns over their ability to hire qualified workers.
So, how can we respond to the challenge?
In economic development, the traditional approach to talent relies on building a pipeline of talent through varied and innovative workforce development programs.
This approach, relies heavily upon education and the business community working together to prevent the issue in the future. Think: K-12 education and programs that introduce students to future career opportunities. Higher and continuing education – from university curriculum to technical training certificates, each plays a role.
Our region has successful workforce development examples focused on the long-game: for example, the iMAGINE Upstate STEAM festival fostering awareness for STEM careers, and the Greenwood Promise and funding technical training for area graduates, or the Laurens County’s A Higher Opportunity showcasing industrial careers and connecting students with employers.
With new times, come new measures. An additional avenue that addresses the immediate needs: attracting established and emerging talent.
“Communities that can capitalize on the next wave of workers will reap benefits for years to come as companies place a premium on talent,” the DCI report states.
In a nationwide survey of 1,000 individuals ages 19-25 across the U.S., DCI found that top drivers in career choice include: general interest in subject matter, job stability and earning potential.
Two critical survey findings stand out: One, that 58% of respondents indicated willingness to find career opportunities in new locations and/or where they can find a job. And two: that many emerging students did not consider their hometowns or college communities due to lack of awareness for existing career opportunities.
So how can the Upstate act on these ideas?
By raising the profile of our community and its job opportunities, among job seekers both near and far.
We have cultivated a regional talent tool that strives to do just that. We’ve gathered insights from business leaders and the support of the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce, The Greenville Chamber of Commerce, Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and Ten at the Top.
We’re pleased to unveil the initiative, which includes a website and brand, at the Upstate SC Alliance’s Annual Meeting on April 17.
We invite interested Upstate to attend our Annual Meeting on April 17 and learn how the initiative can serve as a tool to help companies meet their talent needs.
For more information, visit: upstatescallianceannualmeeting.com.
About the Upstate SC Alliance:
Formed in 2000, the Upstate South Carolina Alliance is a public/private regional economic development organization designed to market and promote the dynamic, commerce-rich, northwestern corner of South Carolina. Our mission is to position the Upstate to excel in the global economy through strategic marketing, collaboration, and thought leadership.