Unemployment in T&D Region has been at low levels compared to past years. It is part of a statewide trend of low unemployment as the number of people working in South Carolina set a record in October. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.9 percent for the month. Over the past five months, the state’s unemployment rate has remained in the 3.9 to 4 percent range, levels not seen in nearly 17 years.

Yet despite economic development successes that all want to see in underdeveloped counties such as Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun, and around South Carolina, there is potential trouble on the horizon for jobs. And it is less about a lack of jobs and more about a shortage of people to fill the jobs that are increasingly requiring advanced skills.

This past week, the State Workforce Development Board announced a plan to ensure a skilled labor force is available for new and expanding businesses.

SWDB, the governor’s arm for workforce development, has approved a three-year strategic plan to build “a cohesive, collaborative and innovative workforce system.”

The board has identified four strategic objectives to meet in order to become the catalyst in building a stronger workforce across South Carolina. The objectives are:

• Identify, invest in and support educational and developmental strategies to better prepare a skilled workforce for current and emerging jobs.

• Align resources, policies and strategies between state, local and regional systems to continuously improve outcomes for businesses, individuals and partners.

• Identify current and future workforce needs of South Carolina business and industry to support career pathways in growth sectors.

• Engage job seekers, employers and other workforce partners through marketing and outreach and articulate a value proposition specific to each.

A new report from Ball State University points to the need for workers to have skills needed for today’s jobs – and identifies the risk for locales where education and skill levels are lacking.

“How Vulnerable Are American Communities to Automation, Trade and Urbanization?” concludes that communities with large numbers of residents with only high school degrees and/or earning low salaries working low-skilled positions are at risk of losing jobs to automation and offshoring.

The report was prepared by the Center for Business and Economic Research and the Rural Policy Institute’s Center for State Policy at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana. The study found that low risk of automation is associated with much higher wages, averaging about $80,000 a year. Occupations with the highest risk of automation have incomes of less than $40,000 annually.

“Automation is likely to replace half of all low-skilled jobs,” CBER Director Michael Hicks said. “Communities where people have lower levels of educational attainment and lower incomes are the most vulnerable to automation. Considerable labor market turbulence is likely in the coming generation.”

To be a community/state that prospers in the evolving economy, focusing on education that provides people with the skills for jobs that are sustainable is essential. A plan such as that from the SWDB can be a component in growing the capacity and performance of the state’s workforce system.

As SWDB Governance Committee Chairman Pat Michaels states: “This plan sets forth objectives and strategies that will serve as a blueprint for the board’s commitment to continuously develop a skilled talent pipeline that meets the needs of business and promotes a sustainable economy, while providing South Carolinians with a livable wage.”

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