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Preparing for the next wave of workers starts early in the Upstate. Close to two dozen educators recently toured 11 local businesses over four days to better understand employers' demands from the prospective workforce.
Delilah Goode is the career development facilitator with Spartanburg School District 3. She works with students in middle school to start testing their aptitude and career possibilities.
“I had no idea that we had so many companies in our backyard," Goode said. “Strive for excellence, however when you go out into the real world, no one will ask you for your report card. You need to be well-rounded and be able to work with people. You need to be able to express your ideas.”
Goode learned businesses want to see prospective employees display soft skills, such as being a good listener and having integrity and good manners.
Ashley Smith, already trained as an emergency medical technician, is studying surgical tech at Spartanburg Community College. She said high school prepared her well for the medical field.
"I love the body," Smith said. "Ever since I was in high school and took my first anatomy class, I’ve always been so interested in the body. It’s amazing how it works.”
However, Cherie Pressley with the South Carolina Department of Commerce warns not every high school student typically follows Smith's route. She said many students leave school with massive amounts of debt and do not know which career to pursue.
"If they’re not aware of what’s available and not aware of what they can achieve, then we don’t have a very productive workforce," Pressley said. “Students today want to find meaningful work. They want it to matter."
Pressley said the number of jobs in manufacturing and health sciences is growing. Rather than look at specific jobs, though, Pressley suggested that students open up their possibilities, and that businesses expose students to job opportunities, recruit and retain them in the Upstate.