SC Technical College System Building a WorkforceJuly 16, 2020
Dr. Tim Hardee discusses how the SC Technical College System supports industry needs
People, and the strength of the workforce they make up, are at the core of economic development. And in South Carolina, it’s hard to talk “workforce” without the SC Technical College System, a network of 16 technical colleges across the state that is nationally recognized for programs such as readySC and Apprenticeship Carolina.
Whether it’s readySC helping to train employees at new industries or Apprenticeship Carolina™ offering “earn while you learn” opportunities, these programs and the Upstate institutions Greenville Technical College, Spartanburg Community College, Tri-County Technical College and Piedmont Technical College are key to supporting Upstate employer’s needs.
And, as the economy rebounds from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic with 12.5% statewide unemployment reported for May 2020, these institutions are resources for those displaced from restaurant, retail and other service industry jobs, unlocking opportunities to up their skills and wages.
During our May 27 Coffee & (Tele)Conversation webinar, system president Dr. Tim Hardee spoke about how the system supports employers, its response to COVID-19, and what’s on the horizon. Read on for a summary of the discussion.
The SC Technical College System
The system serves an average of 100,000 credit-seeking and 60,000 continuing education students statewide, keeping price points as affordable as possible, with locations ready to serve all South Carolinians within a 30-minute drive.
Courses and programs are geared toward jobs that exist in South Carolina, as demonstrated by the fact that 90% of system grads are placed in their field of study within a year of graduation.
readySC & E-Zone Workforce Training and Support
readySC is the training program that supports industries as they enter the state, and a range of companies from Michelin to BMW and Boeing – and many smaller companies – have benefited from it.
For employers implementing readySC training, such as Volvo and Mercedes-Benz Vans, programs were paused during the early stages of the pandemic. Now, with added PPE, social distancing, and handwashing, the program is back up and running.
For companies who pivoted to respond to critical need items – introducing new processes as a result of modified operations, the Ezone program offers helps to offset training costs.
The E-Zone program offers financial support for incumbent worker training on new technology or processes, offering up to 66% in savings on training costs. The program has been activated by a number of businesses who adapted their production to meet critical item demands in response to COVID-19.
On any given day, readySC is working with approximately 115 projects across the state. Last year, we recruited and trained just over 5,000 people for jobs in the state. EZone is a System program that offers an incentive to companies for training incumbent workers. Last year, 78 companies across the state took advantage of this program with nearly 30,000 South Carolinians eligible for retraining.
“We certainly have had a lot of those companies who have gotten involved in producing masks, PPE and hand sanitizer,” Hardee said.
The 16 colleges transitioned quickly to online course delivery, using the existing system that previously allowed one-third of courses to be offered online.
One hurdle the system overcame: working with the Governor’s Office and the State Board of Nursing to enable 1,100 nurses to complete their clinical coursework using online simulations, so that they could graduate and enter the workforce.
Apprenticeship Carolina Fosters On-the-Job Learning
Another growing success for the system: the Apprenticeship Carolina™ program, which offers companies consultation services in launching federally-qualified apprenticeship programs.
“It’s nice to be viewed as the place that other states come to see how we do it. Our apprenticeship program has grown extensively over the last 12-15 years. And, we have started to delve even more into Youth Apprenticeship Programs,” Hardee said.
The system has served 34,000+ apprentices with more than 1,067 registered programs, and another 235 youth apprenticeships have been established.
The program’s core components include a job-related education, supervised on-the-job learning, and a scalable wage progression. And, the average tenure among employees who have completed apprenticeships is 3.6 years longer than those who have not.
More than 1,000 occupations can be part of the program, including: advanced manufacturing, construction technologies, healthcare, information technology, tourism & service industries, transportation & logistics, and energy & utilities.
Employers can take advantage of a $1,000 per apprentice per year for up to four years.
Overcoming Workforce Shortages with SC WINS, ManuFirst and Statewide Marketing
And, apprenticeships aren’t the only way the system is engaging the emerging talent pipeline.
Last year, nearly 11,000 students took advantage of the new SC WINS (the Carolina Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship) scholarship program, which supplements Lottery Tuition Assistance and additional scholarships to increase enrollment in programs that train for high-demand fields.
Six areas were identified: Advanced Manufacturing, Healthcare, IT and Computer Technology, Construction, Hospitality and Tourism, and Transportation, Distribution and Logistics.
Another program with room to grow: ManuFirst, a certificate program designed to meet Volvo’s hiring needs of 4,000 people by offering a 62-hour training course on teamwork, safety and OHSA requirements that the car-maker used in lieu of required one-year of manufacturing experience.
“I would see us expanding that quite a bit across the state in the coming year,” Hardee said.
And, there’s a new $1.5 million, 3-year statewide marketing initiative, I DEFY, in the works geared toward igniting interest in manufacturing among rising high-school seniors.
Developing Future Talent
With such rapid change in the economy – and education delivery – in the first half of 2020, how does the system’s fall look?
“Historically, when unemployment goes up, we have more students,” Hardee said, “when we have lower than 3% unemployment, enrollment goes down.”
Hardee acknowledged that some jobs lost in tourism and hospitality may not return quickly, though openings in healthcare and manufacturing may offer different opportunities.
The system anticipates a return to in-person instruction – especially in fields that require hands-on learning – though with modifications that allow for physical distancing.
“We’re encouraged that the fall semester is going to be a good one for the system, but what that number is, I can’t really tell you now.”
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Graphics and images provided by SC Technical College System.