A significant number of baby boomers are retiring from the workforce in the coming years. As quantified in a recent study focused on the workforce needs, this "employment" displacement has far-reaching effects on the economy of Spartanburg and surrounding counties.
On Sept. 8, the results of research funded by a Duke Energy Foundation grant were released. Under the direction of Spartanburg Community College, the study — "The Upstate Job Scene: Where Perception Does Not Equal Reality" — explored how well-equipped educational institutions are to supply Upstate employers with a skilled workforce in the face of this large group of highly skilled workers that will retire in the coming years. The findings were staggering.
While this data from Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union counties is consistent with national trends, empirical data was collected for the actual aging workforce in these counties.
The study, conducted by Richard Quinn & Associates, revealed that 42 percent of the current workforce in Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union counties is more than 50 years old, and many of these valuable employees will retire over the next 10 years.
These findings are similar to what we are seeing in Duke Energy's workforce. From our nuclear stations to our linemen in the field, developing and maintaining a highly skilled workforce in the Upstate is critical to our success.
That is why it is important to partner with Spartanburg Community College and other institutions to find solutions that will positively impact the Upstate workforce for decades to come.
Though this displacement is difficult to actually quantify, it is universally accepted that retirees will take skills and experience with them as they leave the workforce.
As the economy grows and a large segment of the aging workforce moves out of the job market at an accelerated rate, there is pressure to pre-empt this displacement by responding to these serious challenges.
Spartanburg Community College has taken the lead by using the extensive market research findings as a platform for addressing and hopefully pre-empting what could be a major impact to our workforce in the years ahead.
Some of the ways Spartanburg Community College is doing this is by expanding its capacity to enroll and graduate more students, to basically double its current student graduations. SCC is also expanding its curriculum to address new emerging jobs, strengthening K-12 school partnerships, enhancing student support services, strengthening partnerships with industry, and using other innovative approaches to keep a well-trained and highly sought after workforce in our region.
The first step to address any problem is to recognize it. The results of this study help us understand what the potential impact of an aging population has on manufacturing and business needs.
With the information in hand, institutions such as Spartanburg Community College and others across our region can create proactive, community-based plans that address the critical needs facing not only our region but the entire state of South Carolina.
Clark Gillespy is the president of Duke Energy South Carolina.
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