S.C. lawmakers look to develop workforce of the future

South Carolina leaders say their next focus is figuring out how to fill thousands of new jobs that’ll open up in the next few years across the state.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 6:40 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina leaders say their next focus is figuring out how to fill thousands of new jobs that’ll open up in the next few years across the state.

It comes as companies like BMW and Scout Motors have pledged to spend billions of dollars building new facilities in the state.

“We have got to be ready for this. … We have got to pull together and do the right thing for every person in the state of South Carolina. They deserve our best efforts to provide for them the tools that they need,” said state Rep. Jay West, R-Anderson.

A large, bipartisan group of lawmakers believes it all starts with a bill that just passed the House and now sits with senators.

It’s called the Statewide Education and Workforce Development Act, and supporters say it’ll streamline South Carolina’s workforce development efforts.

“This is a generational-type change to make our government more efficient and productive for the people of our state,” West said.

It would consolidate and coordinate South Carolina’s publicly funded workforce development programs through a new statewide office within the Department of Employment and Workforce.

Legislators say that right now, many of these programs are operating in separate silos and not necessarily communicating what they’re doing with each other.

The comprehensive bill would also require an annual analysis of how many jobs are open across the state and how many graduates there are to fill them.

“It gives our students an opportunity to learn and understand in one-stop shop on an app or a website what’s available, what’s coming available, what these jobs actually pay, the credentials you need to get these jobs,” West said.

Members of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus attempted to add bans on state dollars going to private companies that enact diversity, equity and inclusion programs within their company or that aim to hit environmental and social goals.

“I don’t think it’s the state’s responsibility, nor do I think the state should promote bringing in woke corporations who seek to undermine the values of our constituents,” said Rep. RJ May, R-Lexington.

The rest of the Republican majority joined Democrats in voting down those attempts – saying private companies should be free to operate as they choose, not as government forces them.

“We are saying to the world, ‘We are open for business.’ We are ready for a new era of South Carolina, and we’re going to leave this nonsense where it belongs, in the trash bin,” said Rep. Micah Caskey, R-Lexington.

A fiscal impact report found it would cost the state about $7.5 million to initially implement this legislation and create that new statewide office.

Then it would cost about $4.5 million to run it each year from there.