CLEMSON – Anderson, Oconee and Pickens economic development officials are uniting in a new initiative to improve the region’s marketability and preparedness for job growth.
Formal announcement of the initiative came today during a luncheon held at Clemson’s Madrin Center. The gathering was attended by economic development, chamber of commerce, school district and county government officials in addition to representatives of the region’s manufacturing and small business communities.
The objective of the meeting was to inform those players about the availability of a plan to use funding to assess the workforce in the three-county area over a two-year trial period.
“If someone in Michigan can push a button and find out what workforce is available for a manufacturing plant he might bring here, that is powerful,” said Rick Murphy, coordinator of the Pendleton Region Education Center.
Murphy, who helped the Tuesday gathering assists people in the three county region find resources and define career objectives through the state Personal Pathways program.
County government officials were expected to sign on to WorkReady program later this week. They have been working with steering committees in each of the three counties to define how the program might work and how they could build marketability together.
Incorporating an assessment tool called WorkKeys that is already in use in schools and industry, WorkReady will assess a broad group of graduating high school and technical school students in addition to current workforce. That assessment will create a ranking of individuals based on their skills in applied mathematics, locating information and reading information. It will help assess an individual’s abilities in problems solving, critical thinking, applying information, applying mathematical reasoning, performing mathematical calculations and applying information from a graphs and other graphic sources.
Rankings categorize individuals from Platinum to Bronze levels of skill. A Bronze level makes the examinee has the necessary foundational skills for 16 percent of the available jobs nationally. A Platinum level assesses the individual as possessing the skills for 99 percent of the available jobs.
Cindy Hopkins, president of the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce, said the program will help bring together the resources available like WorkKeys and help business owners know where to go for help.
The top question of county economic developers 10 years ago might have been whether a site was available, said Murphy. “Now they are looking at quality of workforce for their needs.”
Assessment will show what skills are available but also what remediation is needed.
Remaining at the top of their game economically speaking will help counties recruit new and grow existing industry better, said Lewis Gossett, president of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.
Manufacturing in South Carolina is improving in small ways since 2009, Gossett said. More improvements will be available to quality companies as jobs come back to the United States from China.
Gossett believes they will as the cost of Chinese labor increases and adds to the cost of getting manufactured goods here.
As part of the WorkReady program, community steering committees will decide how far available resources will go. Options include testing of all high school graduates or perhaps those that are on a manufacturing career track. Testing will also be available to existing workforce.
“This is a chance to provide training opportunities , not only for those fresh out of school, but for all citizens who are seeking to better their employment situation,” said Burriss Nelson, Anderson County economic development director.
Funding for the project comes from a variety of state and federal sources.