Day Two Recap: SC Leadership Exchange

Day Two’s theme surrounded Education, Workforce and Preparing the Next Generation and offered critical conversations and updates on the state of our education systems.

We kicked off day two with Dan Ellzey with SCDEW on the State of Employment in South Carolina.

Overall, the state of employment is better than it was and is improving.

Dan Ellzey, SCDEW

Jobs in our state are available, but there are still a large number of people that are unemployed. Currently, SC Works’ online services openings include 81,000, where the unemployment claims are 184,333.

You may ask…why aren’t 81,000 of those people going and filling those jobs? A few of the factors are skills needed to do the job, demographic differences and the scary truth that we are having a reduction in labor force due to the amount of parents and caregivers that are shifting their focuses.

A positive point he made is that job fairs haven’t stopped – rather, they are being delivered in different and COVID-19 conscious ways.

SCDEW has done six virtual job fairs, 28 multi-employer Drive-Thru or Walk-Thru job fairs and are working on a virtual job fair platform that will be made available statewide.

Another impressive project is their 53-foot mobile workshop, which he noted was the best public-private partnership effort he has ever seen. Launched September 3, this mobile bus helps participants learn about careers in much-needed industries, providing hands-on exposure to skilled professionals through:

  • Commercial driving simulator
  • CNC Operations
  • Construction tech
  • Diesel tech
  • Fork lift simulator
  • Heavy equipment simulator
  • Utility bucket station
  • Welding simulator

This discussion led to a fabulous conversation led by Anita Zucker with state technical college presidents that included Dr. Keith Miller with Greenville Technical College, Dr. Mary Thornley with Trident Technical College and Dr. Ronald Rhames with Midlands Technical College.

The consensus of the three is that both employees of the colleges and the students have been affected by the pandemic. Specifically, childcare needs have increased dramatically.

It has forced us to be innovative – it isn’t about putting education courses online, its is about putting support services online, too to help during this difficult time.

Dr. Keith Miller, Greenville Technical College

Whether it was Dr. Thornley talking about the extremely successful SC Aeronautical Training Center, Dr. Miller discussing their project-based degree in Manufacturing to help maintain the success of this industry in our state or Dr. Rhames highlighting their entrepreneurial services and classes, these Presidents have continued to innovate and create valuable lasting solutions to meet our state’s current needs.

When asked why students should attend a tech school, there were endless reasons, but a few stuck out (coming from a person who graduated from a 4-year college and who doesn’t enjoy that student loan payment each month…)

  • you are able to get an education at a lower cost and have the ability to save money
  • students can attend technical colleges without having to borrow money and can leave with little to no debt
  • if a student spends their first two years at a technical college, it gives them a great headstart
  • creates a well-rounded individual that is a career-focused graduate and has the grounding that is necessary for some students

We continued the power-packed day with great speaker, Haley Glover, Strategy Director with the Lumina Foundation, on innovation in education attainment.

She felt that it was important to discuss what the current landscape of SC college students is, which included these important stats:

  • 42% of college students are students of color
  • 64% of college students work, and 40% of them work full-time
  • 24% of college students have children or other dependents
  • 49% of college students are financially independenct from their parents
  • 36% of college students reported food insecurity

If some of these stats were shocking to you, you weren’t the only one. In order for organizations to offer great opportunities for students once they graduate, Glover pushes the prioritization of racial equity first and foremost as well as clearly describing the skills and credential needs that you are looking for in an employee.

Transitioning from college students, we heard an update on the State of Public K-12 Education, led by Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman.

As we all know, the pandemic has shifted schooling dramatically, and currently in SC’s 80 school districts, 538 schools are full face-to-face instruction, 54 schools are four days per week in person, 596 schools are using a hybrid delivery model and 8 schools are fully virtual.

The Coronavirus Relief Funds ($222,700,000) in our state have been used for:

  • Academic recover camps
  • LEAP days
  • Food Service Costs
  • PPP – Over $50 million in SCDE purchases
  • School nurses
  • Tutoring and support services that prioritize face to face
  • Technology and connectivity equipment

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund ($216,311,518) has been used for:

  • Mental health services and supports
  • Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean facilities
  • Purchasing educational technology for students
  • Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation and continuation of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff of the local educational agency

As we can see, Spearman has her hands full, but credits the local school districts for continuing to do what’s necessary to ensure our kids get a great education.

Technology and connectivity equipment are a critical goal of Congressman Clyburn, our next speaker.

COVID-19 has revealed just how important broadband is to our existence, infrastructure and our everyday lives.

Congressman Clyburn

According to Clyburn, building broadband access for the future is important to provide jobs throughout our state, a better quality of life for all residents and the enhanced delivery of healthcare and education.

From Clyburn’s message, we led into a Higher Education Panel, moderated by Lou Kennedy, CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals. The panel featured Dr. Andrew Hsu, President of the College of Charleston, Dr. James Clements, President of Clemson University and Dr. Roslyn Artis, President of Benedict College.

There were many similarities between this panel and the technical college panel, as all institutions are being pushed to think in ways they never had to before. At Benedict College, for example, 31% of their students have housing and food insecurity, on top of striving to go to school and do well.

Finding ways for these colleges to meet the new needs of their students has challenged them, but also made them hopeful that they will continue to adapt and be better universities for their students moving forward.

We ended the day with a critical topic on the economic impact of our SC Defense Communities, moderated by Josh Sorkin with SAIC. Dan Beatty, with the South Carolina Military Base Task Force and Major General William F. Grimsley, Secretary of Veteran Affairs with the State of South Carolina, discussed that there are 405,000 well-trained, disciplined and educated veterans located all over our great state.

Don’t be afraid to hire a veteran. There may not be a direct correlation from their former military job description to what you are hiring for, but remember that these folks are adaptable and will serve you well.

Dan Beatty, SC Military Task Force

Here are a few tips to help our military and veterans:

  • We need to know where our veterans are and know how they are transitioning so we can help them find great opportunities and resources
  • IT and Network management – there is huge opportunity for our veterans and military to help grow these industries
  • Identify entrepreneur opportunities for our state veterans so that they don’t move on to other states that can support what they are looking for

Thank you for learning more about Day Two of the SC Leadership Exchange. Head on over to Day Three to read about the final day of the conference!


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