The Jobs Gap
Building the Pipeline
In central South Carolina there are a projected 20,000 job openings over the next five years, but the data show that the state lacks people with the education and training needed to fill many of those very lucrative positions. Current research provided by the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) finds that 17 percent of all jobs in South Carolina require a bachelor's degree or higher.
The state currently has 26 percent of its population with that level of education. However, jobs requiring middle skills, those defined as needing education and training beyond high school but less than a four-year degree, account for 45 percent of available jobs, but only 29 percent of available workers meet the middle-skilled hiring criteria. Low-skilled jobs are at 38 percent, but there are 45 percent of SC citizens with a high school education or less.
Looking at these numbers, it becomes apparent that a large percentage of low-skilled workers need to move to the middle-skilled hiring arena. This goal is not just applicable for younger students currently in K-12 school systems, but it also applies to adults who missed the opportunity to extend learning and skills training at earlier points in their lives. It can also mean reentry into education for those with bachelor's or master's degrees who need technical proficiency.
To ensure the state's economic health, there are programs and services at the state's 16 technical colleges that help individuals identify career fields, target any deficit in their qualifications for those jobs, and ensure that there is a pathway to become eligible for what can be a lucrative career opportunity for the person and their family.
Midlands Technical College knows where the jobs are and where the projections forecast new jobs will be in the future. Seeing the job gap data from DEW helps position the college to remedy this gap between people and jobs.
MTC developed a customer focus model that looks at the four clusters of regional business where most of the job openings will be – Alternate Energy, Health Care, Advanced Manufacturing and Information Technology.
Over the next five years, there will be a need for in excess of 2,500 new employees in alternate energy. These jobs include nuclear operators required by the V.C. Summer site in Fairfield County and the skilled crafts technicians, including welders and electricians, needed by Chicago Bridge and Iron that is constructing the new nuclear plants. There is a projected need for 4,600 middle-skill jobs in the next five years in health care, and 2,000 in advanced manufacturing at companies such as Michelin and the new Nephron pharmaceutical facility in Lexington County. Right now in central South Carolina, there is a need for nearly 2,900 information technology workers, and that number will increase.
Businesses need employees who are proficient in the specific fields where the hiring will take place. Employment growth is not going to be in low-skill areas; the new jobs will overwhelmingly require skills and education beyond high school. To build and sustain that pipeline of qualified individuals to meet the needs of business, it is imperative to spread the word about both the number of jobs available, and most importantly, about what level of education a person needs to have among their credentials to apply for those good jobs.
To be competitive, low-skilled job applicants need to move into the middle-skilled pool. There is a way for all students to advance into good jobs with certificates and associate degrees. Adults who need more education can come back to study so that they will be eligible for the increasing number of middle-skilled job openings.
MTC is in the business of teaching and learning. The college serves industry by educating the people needed to fill jobs. MTC serves students by giving them the skills to be hired or to go on to additional higher education. What must be avoided is any widening of the gap between what is needed in the job market and the skills of South Carolina's people. It is a situation that can be fixed.
The jobs are open; the middle-skill salaries are competitive, often ranging from $40,000 to over $100,000. The message forward is that these good jobs are available to anyone with the matching education and skills training.