The Associated Industries of S.C. Foundation has partnered with Governor Henry McMaster and other state agencies including the S.C. Technical College System, S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce and the S.C. Department of Commerce to announce a statewide workforce initiative, Be Pro Be Proud SC. The initiative is aimed at educating and inspiring more South Carolinians to consider skilled professional careers.
The Foundation includes Home Builders Association of SC; SC Trucking Association; Carolina’s Associated General Contractors; Forestry Association of SC; SC Chamber of Commerce; SC Farm Bureau Federation, SC Petroleum Marketers Association; South Carolina Timber Producers Association; Palmetto Agribusiness Council; SC Motor Coach Association; Carolinas Ready-Mix Association; SC Propane Gas Association, SC Beverage Association, SC Retail Federation, SC Beer Wholesalers Association and the SC Asphalt Pavement Association. Each of these groups have voiced their support for the initiative along with providing financial support for the campaign.
The skilled professional workforce is aging out and the next generation of talent may not be sufficient to fill the demands. Thousands of jobs in South Carolina are going unfilled due to a lack of interest and skilled workers trained in construction, trucking, agriculture and other specific roles. This is a critical issue to South Carolina’s economy as the state tries to succeed in a globally competitive environment. Construction projects involve a lot of people during the construction phase. Once the plans are finalized and all required permits are received, the construction phase requires a detailed project plan that involves many skilled trades. These can include civil engineers, project managers, surveyors, site preparers, heavy equipment operators, material handlers, truck drivers, contractors, laborers, as well as, many other trades. Since 2006, SC has lost 26.8% of its residential construction jobs or some 17,000 jobs in just that sector of construc-tion jobs alone. Most of these jobs were self-employed contractors. The need is great and growing. The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce estimates an additional 24,000 new construction workers are needed to meet the state’s current construction needs. According to some reports, only one in three parents says they would encourage their children to pursue construction careers. This is despite the advanced skills required and the opportunity to earn excellent salaries in the construction industry.
Be Pro Be Proud SC will offer South Carolinians new insight into the skilled professional workforce and re-quires a team approach that includes employers, schools, elected officials, students and parents who recognize skilled professions for the financial and rewarding career opportunities they are. The HBA of SC will also work to provide apprenticeships in the construction field to help attract and cultivate future talent. “ South Carolina’s skilled professional workforce is aging fast, leading to a growing gap in finding South Carolinians to fill these positions.
Information about these opportunities has not generated interest among younger generations. There are an estimated 4.6 million job openings in the U.S. today. Approximately 61,000 of these openings exist in South Carolina with many being in skilled technical fields. This gap in our state’s employment can be directly attributed to a lack of knowledge, interest and preparation. South Carolina’s future will depend on changing the perception of these career options and efforts highlighting the many opportunities available within these sectors.
The initiative will be adapted for South Carolina from a model program initiated and supported by the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce and a group of associated industry organizations. Carolinas AGC, the SC Trucking Association, the SC Homebuilders, and the SC Forestry Association have joined forces to advocate for state funding to promote their various industries and the jobs that are critical to their success. The group has secured a recurring funding stream which is part of the South Carolina State Senate’s budget proposal.
The Be Pro Be Proud initiative is modeled after a program that was created and implemented in Arkansas. Arkansas’s workforce has experienced the same severe shortages of skilled workers coupled with an aging workforce. As a result, the Be Pro Be Proud initiative was born to meet these challenges. Over 23% of the current skilled professionals in the state are at or near retirement age. Leaders within the state realized that their workforce wasn’t prepared to fill the positions their retiring workers were creating. Recognizing that now is the time to act, the founders of Be Pro Be Proud knew that by changing how Arkansans thought about the job opportunities provided by skilled professions, they could inspire today’s youth and lead them, and their state, down the path to prosperity.
Arkansas business leaders and educators knew the best opportunity to reach those who will make up the skilled workforce of the future was to bring the opportunity to them. They developed a mobile unit, the Workforce Workshop, which provides hands-on experience with skilled professions while showing the jobs in depth to a live audience. The Workforce Workshop tour features a customized, interactive 18-wheeler trac-tor trailer loaded with information, skills challenges and more as it makes its way across Arkansas visiting companies, schools and community events.
South Carolina’s group is using their new funding to develop its own “tricked out” 18-wheeler that will serve as a mobile workshop featuring the following trades: CAD & Drawing, Pipe Fitting, Diesel Technician, CDL Driver, Carpentry, Electrical, Plumping, HVAC, Welding, and Heavy Equipment Operator. The SC coalition above, along with other related industries, is interested in seeing South Carolina support the funding of its own mobile workshop, Be Pro Be Proud SC. The mobile workshop can be taken to schools, DJJ, fairs, football games and is designed to gain the excitement of kids through look, feel, and play, which will go far in piquing their interest in one or more of the involved industries.