What does Charleston's future hold for Young Professionals?

Written by Tim Hefferon, Director of Business Development with ARCO Design/Build

A major pandemic, supply chain crisis, labor shortages, and international war. If the past few years have taught us anything, it is that in today’s professional world, it is necessary to prepare for an unknown future. But what does that future look like in our local market of Charleston and what can young professionals do today to prepare for tomorrows challenges? These were just a few of the topics discussed at the Charleston Young Professionals event this past Thursday. 

McCain Kerr, of First National Bank, moderated an all-star panel from Charleston’s automotive manufacturing, healthcare, infrastructure, supply chain, and technology industries. The panel joined the Charleston Young Professionals group to discuss what challenges they see for the future generation of leadership in Charleston, as well as provide insight on how to approach potential challenges. 

With such a diverse panel to discuss these topics, we were able to see that many of today’s challenges span across multiple industries and will require strong, collaborative efforts in order to create and implement solutions. For example, when asked about the biggest barrier to positive growth in the Charleston area, Dr. Kimberly Butler Willis of GOODSTOCK Consulting, identified the link between labor shortages in the healthcare and manufacturing industries, as well as the need for better access to technology in rural areas. Dr. Butler challenged us to imagine trying to find local job postings, requiring children to learn remotely, or even order supplies from Amazon without adequate access to the internet. Her point, in a technological driven future, access for all is critical. 

As Charlestonians, we know that our city continues to grow at breakneck speed. While such an increase in population presents great opportunities, the massive growth will surely bring challenges as well. Katherine Holba, of Volvo Car USA, and Kelsi Brewer, of South Carolina Ports Authority, discussed that the best way to get ahead of coming growth of our city is with physical infrastructure. Electric chargers, port improvements, larger highways, and proper planning will be essential as Charleston continues to grow and develop. In addition to physical infrastructure, the panel also discussed a need for social infrastructure. Educational pipelines, employment pathways, access to technology, affordability of healthcare, will be important to not only aiding the growth of the Holy City, but also keeping the “Charleston Charm” in Charleston. 

Towards the end of the session, the panel challenged those in attendance to think about what they can do now to help their companies and communities prepare for these potential obstacles. Tony Boor, of Blackbaud, discussed the reality that baby boomers are currently, or soon will be retiring from industry. This will leave a void in company leadership that will need to be filled by young professionals like those in CYP. “Find stability, and then get courageous,” added Dr. Mark Scheurer, Chief Medical Officer of MUSC. New problems require new solutions, and leadership needs to be courageous enough to not accept the status quo.  Overall, the diversity and chemistry of the panel made the event extremely informative, interactive, and fun. I know I speak on behalf of the entire audience and Charleston Young Professionals team in thanking the panelists that came out. While the panelists agreed that the future will hold many challenges, both across the world and in our backyards, their perspective provided great insight on how to combat these challenges and continue to grow and thrive. Using their advice and guidance, we can be certain that young professionals of Charleston will be ready prepared for the road ahead.

Tim Hefferon
Director of Business Development with ARCO Design/Build
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