SCA responsibilities, marketing and industrial recruitment

Dear Editor,

SouthernCarolina Alliance has provided marketing and industrial recruitment services to Bamberg County since 1996, when county leaders saw the need to offset jobs losses from the downsizing at Savannah River Site and from the off shoring of textile manufacturing.

During that time, both professional studies and personal interviews with existing and prospective industries have consistently indicated that the improvement of the skills of our workforce will be crucial to retaining jobs within our existing industries and in recruiting prospective industries to locate here.

Our responsibilities at SCA are marketing and industrial recruitment, but we must have a skilled workforce in order to successfully market the region.

For those reasons, SCA has made every effort over the years to partner with Denmark Technical College (DTC), USC Salkehatchie, Technical College of the Lowcountry, SCMEP, and other workforce development partners to improve the skills of our local workforce.

These efforts have included partnering with Denmark Tech and others to lead a regional pilot program in WorkKeys, which assessed the technical skills of more than 3,700 people in our service area so that our technical colleges and workforce development partners could offer targeting training in technical skills. This program is now being offered throughout the State of South Carolina and has been endorsed by the Governor.

SCA also partnered with DTC to offer mechatronic courses, which SCA funded at our own expense when our local industries indicated that the skills of our workforce were not up to par to fill available jobs.

In addition, we spearheaded the initiative that resulted in the new Allendale Quick Jobs Training Center, where DTC is contracted to provide technical instruction. SCA also fought (unsuccessfully) for the expansion of the Barnwell campus of DTC to offer expanded, high-tech training for those seeking jobs.

Most recently, we met with leaders at the state level to ask for improvements in instruction, equipment and facilities for Denmark Technical College because we believe that our students and industries deserve the best technical training in the country. In short, we have been advocates for improving technical education because it would create a competitive edge for our communities in recruiting industries and creating jobs.

Last year, the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization (SRSCRO) commissioned a study to address the need for a skilled workforce to support the pending nuclear renaissance and fill the void left by the retiring nuclear workforce. With nuclear projects and new reactors being built throughout the Carolinas and Georgia, including Plant Vogtle and Shaw/Areva MOX, the study found that “nearly 10,000 new workers will be needed in the next decade to support the expansion of the nuclear industry in the greater Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) of Georgia and SC alone.”

One of the greatest needs identified was in the craft category, which included general welders, nuclear welders, and pipe fitters.

At the same time, in talking with existing industries in the region, as well as prospective industries in recruitment meetings, the need for highly skilled welders was listed as a major concern by some and as the number one driver in their site location decision process by others.

For those reasons, SCA partnered with the SC Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP) to lead a regional effort to bring advanced structural welding, nuclear welding, pipefitting and NQA welding inspection training through a professional-level program designed by our local industries and meeting their requirements.

This program will not usurp or compete with the welding courses offered at our local technical colleges; instead, graduates of the programs at DTC and TCLC will be excellent candidates to enter our advanced programs, which will also be available to the unemployed, underemployed, highly talented high school welding students, and veterans.

Our goal is simple: to fill the workforce needs of our local industries while connecting our citizens to good jobs because a highly skilled workforce is essential to the survival of our communities.

SouthernCarolina Alliance looks forward to working with our partners at Denmark Technical College, TCLC, USC-Salk, our high schools, and all of our workforce development partners to make this goal a reality. Our citizens deserve nothing less.

Respectfully submitted,
Johnny Williamson, Chairman
Danny Black, President
SouthernCarolina Regional Development Alliance

For more information on the advanced welding program, please contact Bill Robinson of SCA at (803)541-0023.