To help the Upstate successfully cope with the challenge of the loss of skilled workers due to the retirement of the Baby Boomers Spartanburg Community College will undertake a series of initiatives to train and educate the workers that will be needed to replace the retirees.
In a series of press conferences in its three-county service area of Cherokee, Spartanburg, and Union counties, SCC, in partnership with The Duke Energy Foundation, announced Monday the release of data from a market research study, which analyzed the needs, skills, gaps, and impact of the evolving workforce in the manufacturing industry as well as the future outlook of that sector for employers, employees, and the vitality of the Upstate’s economy.
The study, which was funded with a grant from The Duke Energy Foundation, was conducted on SCC’s behalf by Richard Quinn & Associates in Columbia.
Businesses in SCC’s service area that employed 10 or more workers were surveyed this summer as part of the study to collect data regarding the current and projected employment needs of industry. Based on the information gathered, the study concluded that 42 percent of the service area’s current workforce is over the age of 50 and that 23 percent of those workers plan on retiring over the next 10 years.
The report concluded that the retirement of these workers will have a tremendous impact on the area’s economy, especially manufacturing, as skilled workers leave the workforce and must be replaced. The study also concluded that a disconnect exists between the jobs offered by and expectations of industry and the education and interests of many members of the rising generation of potential employees.
Speaking at Monday’s press conference at the Union County Advanced Technology Center, Rick Quinn of Richard Quinn & Associates discussed the impact of this disconnect. He said that 90 percent of the companies interviewed for the survey said they were still able to hire locally. However, Quinn said 60 percent of them said they are finding it increasingly difficult to do so.
Also speaking at Monday’s press conference was SCC President Henry C. Giles Jr. who announced a series of initiatives the college plans to undertake to address “the critical shortage of skilled workers facing our community and state.”
Giles said to help area businesses address their current and projected needs for skilled workers, SCC “pledges its resources to educate and train manpower needed by business, both now and in the future.” To do this, Giles said the college will take the following steps:
1. Expand its capacity to enroll and graduate more students, both credit and non-credit, and to prepare more students for critical need areas, such as, Advanced Manufacturing, Industrial Technologies, Engineering Technologies, Business and Computer Technology.
2. Expand its curriculum to address new emerging careers, such as, Logistics, Transportation, Chemical Engineering Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Civil Engineering Technology, Advance Composite Materials Manufacturing, and Data Security.
3. Strengthen its K-12 school partnerships to ensure an environment that encourages all students to continue their education and skills development after high school. Giles pointed out that “soft skills” are not only critical for everyone to gain employment, but also to be a good citizen. He said those skills will be taught throughout the curriculum.
4. Enhance and expand its student support services to better help students identify their career choice and encourage them to stay in college and graduate.
5. Expand its marketing, recruiting and other outreach efforts to promote the critical need for skilled workers and how the college can prepare individuals for careers in business and manufacturing.
6. Strengthen its partnerships with industry to ensure graduates are prepared for the workforce and to be productive citizens.
7. Work with local industry to dispel the myth that manufacturing is dead or dying; and let everyone know that manufacturing is indeed viable and is critical to our community’s future.
8. Expand its outreach to area businesses and industry to inform them of the college’s ability to provide training for existing employees through both credit and non-credit courses.
Giles cautioned that SCC cannot do this on its own but will have to have support of both the business community and the K-12 education system.
It will also have to have the support of “local and regional foundations in helping the college fund the purchase of educational equipment and the hiring of additional faculty. Faculty, and educational equipment are essential for the college to be able to expand and enhance the college curriculum.”
There will also have to be support from local, state, and federal officials which Giles described as critical to the college’s ability to expand its capacity to train more students and develop and maintain affordable programs.
Giles said SCC will immediately begin to address these tasks by taking the following steps:
1. Forming a task force to guide SCC in addressing community needs by developing a strategic long range plan that identifies and prioritizes the its strengths and weaknesses; and establishes a plan to increase enrollment and graduate twice as many students annually.
2. Seek local, federal, and state grants and other opportunities that will allow SCC to expand programs, improve program quality and increase the number of graduates.
3. Seek support from local foundations and other private donors to assist SCC in expanding its programs and support services to help students continue their education and skills development. He said SCC will also seek support and assistance in doubling the number of technical scholar students and the number of companies participating in the Technical Scholars’ Program.
4. Giles said that SCC would be accountable for these initiatives, and provide updates of its accomplishments to its stakeholders.
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