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How Upstate South Carolina Manufactures a Modern Workforce

October 2, 2015

Upstate South Carolina is a region that has always prided itself on its reputation for a dedicated, hard-working labor force. From the textile mills of decades past, to the manufacturing facilities found throughout the Upstate today, the workforce has been the key driver in the success of the 10-county region of Southwest South Carolina.

While the impressive output of the Upstate’s workforce has never changed, the profile of the typical employee has dramatically evolved. Visit any of the Upstate’s 1,800-plus manufacturing facilities and you will see a highly-advanced, high tech facility operated by a skilled workforce, proficient in robotics, engineering and other expertise.

Those currently involved in manufacturing, including businesses in Upstate South Carolina, understand that in order to keep up with the rapid technological changes in manufacturing, there needs to be a significant investment in building the next generation workforce

As part of National Manufacturing Day, an annual event during which North American manufacturers open their doors to showcase the potential of modern manufacturing and foster interest in manufacturing careers, we take a look at how Upstate South Carolina is working to build tomorrow’s manufacturing workforce.

Manufacturing Booms in South Carolina, Upstate

Manufacturing is big business in South Carolina. Recent numbers show that nearly $25 billion of the state’s gross state product (GSP) comes from manufacturing, representing almost 21% of South Carolina’s entire GDP.

Home to more than 5,200 companies involved in the manufacturing sector, including industry leaders such as BMW, Michelin, Fujifilm, Boeing and more, South Carolina has caught the world’s attention when it comes to modern manufacturing. The state and Upstate region is recognized throughout the industry as one of the top places for doing business, thanks in part to offering manufacturers access to a top-ranked business climate, world-class research environment and a superb quality of life.


“The Upstate’s pro-business approach and ‘can-do’ attitude is also unwavering,” said Lewis Gossett, President & CEO, South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, in a recent Q&A. “Public and private leadership in the Upstate makes things happen and functions as a team better than almost any other area that I’m aware of.”

Those factors are helping the state to attract and retain business at record levels, specifically in the Upstate. Since 2010, Upstate South Carolina has announced more than $9.9 billion in capital investment. That includes over $4.56 billion since the beginning of 2014.

Creating a Work-ready Labor Pool

While the Upstate’s business climate plays a major role in the region’s success in manufacturing, what truly drives the region’s manufacturing sector is its ability to provide a qualified, highly-trained workforce. Of the state of South Carolina’s 234,000-plus manufacturing jobs, over 102,000 are found in the 10-county Upstate region. In the past five years alone, the Upstate has announced nearly 26,000 new jobs–most of which come from manufacturing.

While the Upstate’s current workforce is contributing to a highly successful manufacturing sector, equally impressive is the region’s commitment to developing effective workforce development programs. The Upstate is served by several national-recognized technical schools focused on serving the needs of local manufacturers. The innovative programs provide students with advanced technical training, ensuring they are work-ready upon graduation. Each of the technical schools works hand-in-hand with South Carolina’s technical college system affiliate programs like readySC and Apprenticeship Carolina so companies locating in the area can take full advantage of an extensive education and training network.

In the Upstate, colleges and universities work closely with area industries to develop innovative training opportunities to produce a workforce that meets the current and future needs of modern manufacturers.

Building Tomorrow’s Workforce Starts Today

The Upstate’s workforce development programs don’t just start by addressing the needs of individuals looking to enter the workforce today. Industry leaders throughout the region have demonstrated a commitment to educating students at a very early age about the range of career opportunities in modern manufacturing–and changing the perception of what a job in manufacturing looks like.

To help attract tomorrow’s workforce, educators and industry leaders are also collaborate in the classroom, working directly with students on projects found in advanced manufacturing. For example, Greenville-based Sage Automotive Interiors, a leading automotive interior manufacturers, partners with Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School, a new Greenville County School focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM), on a year-long mentorship program that included a project to design a car interior for the driver of tomorrow.

The Upstate’s commitment to building tomorrow’s workforce extends out of the classroom as well. Earlier this year, leaders throughout the region came together to organize iMAGINE Upstate, a week-long crowd-program that promoted cultural and economic development with a celebration and showcase of STEM, innovation and entrepreneurial activity in Upstate South Carolina. The event culminated with a festival in downtown Greenville which drew more than 14,000 people.

As Upstate South Carolina’s manufacturing sector continues to grow, so will the region’s investment in building today and tomorrow’s workforce.

For more information on workforce development in Upstate South Carolina, visit  https://www.upstatescalliance.com/about-upstate/information-downloads#workforce-education

Read More on the Blog

Looking at the Future of STEM: A Q&A with CU-ICAR Automotive Engineering Instructor Dee Kivett

Sage Automotive and Fisher Middle School Celebrate Successful Collaboration Program

TOPICS: Upstate Thoughts, Colleges & Universities