When 12 South Carolina counties earned their Work Ready Community In Progress designations on May 12, 2013, the state became the first in the nation to have 100 percent of its counties approved for the groundbreaking workforce readiness initiative created by ACT, the college assessment and testing group.
Members of the SHRM S.C. State Council were instrumental in getting all 46 counties in the state to apply for the designations and to meet the program’s rigorous requirements.
“It really was a labor of love for everyone on the state council,” said Rita Revels, SPHR, director of the SHRM S.C. State Council and an HR manager at Schaeffler Group USA Inc. in Fort Mill, S.C. “We are all very passionate about improving workforce readiness in our communities, and this program is an excellent way for us to get involved and make a real difference in our communities.”
To earn the S.C. Work Ready Community In Progress designation, each county had to demonstrate a two-year commitment to achieving certain goals, such as improving high school graduation rates, achieving certifications in national career-readiness standards, and ensuring the support of community stakeholders.
Members of the SHRM state council were involved in every step of the process, according to Revels.
“If someone from the SHRM local chapters couldn’t attend a planning or assessment meeting, then someone from the state council was there,” she explained. “Ed Parris and members of the state council’s workforce readiness committee should really be commended for all their hard work and dedication to this project.”
Parris, the SHRM state director for workforce readiness, said the effort he and others put into earning the work-ready designations goes beyond the traditional boundaries of volunteer work.
“The workforce readiness initiative really is essential to my work and my business,” said Parris, president of Phillips Staffing in Greenville, S.C. “The skills gap in the U.S. has reached critical mass, and businesses simply cannot find the skilled workers that they need, which is having a negative impact on our economy.”
South Carolina’s manufacturing industry is at the core of the state’s economy, but the skills needed by today’s high-tech companies are much different than the state’s textile industry of 30 years ago.
“Manufacturers like BMW and Boeing have invested millions in South Carolina, and these companies have spawned other businesses that supply them,” Parris said. “In the Greenville area alone there are 40 suppliers for BMW. And most of those businesses need highly skilled machinists and tool and die makers, and they are facing a tremendous challenge filling those jobs.”
The skills-gap challenge has made programs to promote workforce readiness an economic necessity, Parris claims. He is proud that South Carolina is now recognized as a leader in the national effort to improve work skills.
“This is a great starting point, but we still have a lot more work to do to make sure that workers have the skills businesses need to compete and thrive in today’s global market.”
Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.