Fri, May 24, 2024

New legislation targets workforce development in South Carolina

North Augusta business leaders got a primer on legislation passed by the South Carolina General Assembly during the 2023 session.

Act 67, titled the Statewide Education and Workforce Development Act, is designed to align the workforce development efforts across the Palmetto State. It created the Coordinating Council for Workforce Development (CCWD) and Regional Workforce Advisors (RWA) within the state’s Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW).

Charles Appleby, Senior Advisor for the CCWD, spoke at the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce’s Power Lunch on August 22. He said Act 67 is the outcome of a change in how businesses choose where to locate. In the past, one of the priorities was a location with access to good transportation to move their goods to customers.

That has shifted to locations with trained workers.

“Workforce has become the primary component of everything business chooses,” he said. “During the pandemic, we saw quality of life jump up into the top three (priorities). Businesses used to decide ‘I’m going to locate off of basic infrastructure, roads, sewer water.’ Now, they’re making decisions more on ‘Do I believe I can find the people that will run my business.’ It became more important to find those people and find the perfect location.”

With the act in its infancy, the 37 members of the CCWD led by DEW’s Executive Director, William Floyd as its chairman, are working to create a Unified State Plan. The goal is to create guidelines that can help businesses large and small, educational institutions and local governments develop a plan specific to local needs while fitting into the overall goals for South Carolina.

“Thanks to the Workforce Development Act, the CCWD has more tools and stakeholders to align South Carolina’s workforce and DEW has received more subject matter experts, such as the RWAs, to help get the job done,” said Floyd. “The RWAs are a vital link between school and work, as they help communicate to students, parents, educators, guidance counselors, and others about the availability and advantages of fulfilling, well-paid jobs in our state, such as health care, manufacturing, and information technology.”

“We’re sitting here in a great growth spot here in South Carolina, and specifically in North Augusta,” said City Administrator, Jim Clifford. “Data, in particular, is useful for us because we can kind of see where people are coming from, which industries are migrating from, and which industries are migrating to. That by itself would be very useful for any municipality or county to figure out how they want to get after workforce development and economic development.”

Will Williams, president and CEO of Western SC, likes the idea of a consistent plan, applied statewide.

“South Carolina has had a lot of emphasis on workforce development over the 20 years I’ve been in economic development, but it’s always in little pockets,” he said. “So, having a consolidated plan, knowing what everybody’s doing, and working towards the same common goal is going to be very beneficial. Not only to sell the state, but also young people trying to get jobs.”

One item already finalized for the USP is occupation codes. It will require all businesses to provide specific numbers for their existing workforce. For example, a construction company currently reporting it has 100 employees will need to break that down into each category, such as 50 carpenters, 10 plumbers, 10 electricians, 10 masons, 10 heavy equipment operators, and 10 office staff. That provision takes effect in March 2024.

Robert Davis, Senior Analyst for the CCWD, said once the council finalizes the USP, he hopes groups like the chamber, businesses, and local governments will invite them back to present the plan.

“We would love the opportunity to come once we have the unified plan knocked out, so that we get the feedback from you to ensure that it’s something that will work for everybody,” he said.

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