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Workforce is number one business concern

Posted: March 20, 2017 4:25 p.m.
Updated: March 21, 2017 1:00 a.m.

The number one concern of businesses considering coming to central South Carolina, and therefore, Kershaw County, is workforce. Mike Briggs, President and CEO of the Central South Carolina Alliance (a not-for-profit organization that promotes central South Carolina as a valuable business location) shared this point at a recent Kershaw County Council meeting. We’ve heard this before, from our own Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns: “trained and ready workforce.” I have also heard concerns about workforce voiced by existing local businesses, primarily from the perspective of: how can they find dedicated and reliable employees.

Workforce is crucial to the success of any business. Thankfully, leaders and organizations in Kershaw County, including the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, realize the importance of workforce. There are many on-going projects and new activities planned to support this key to business success. Here are a few examples.

One of the most influential organizations on workforce development in Kershaw County is the Kershaw County School District. I had the opportunity recently to visit schools and classrooms around the County for a range of grade levels. The public education that our children are receiving is impressive. Not only are they being taught the basics (“reading, writing and arithmetic”), but they are also being taught responsibility, critical thinking, and accountability. Skills are necessary for employability but these last three items are very important to employers. Business owners have to rely heavily on their employees for the day-to-day activities, so that the owner can concentrate on long term planning, strategies, and opportunities. Employers need reliable, trustworthy, and dedicated employees, and our children have opportunities to build these skills at our local public schools.

The chamber is proud to partner with the School District on workforce development projects. One successful joint project is the Junior Leadership program for high school students (special thanks to Laurie Parks and Ed Garrison for coordinating this program). Junior Leadership is a national program that allows students to learn more about leadership, career opportunities, community responsibility, state government, and cultural diversity. The students involved in this program have a unique opportunity to exercise and further develop their leadership, teamwork and problem solving skills – all of which are important to businesses.

Another organization that influences workforce development in Kershaw County is Central Carolina Technical College (CCTC). CCTC and the Kershaw County Economic Development Office/Committee of 100 recently hosted a chamber Breakfast Before Hours at the Kershaw County CCTC campus. This event not only provided the opportunity to network but also allowed Terry Booth, CCTC Interim President and Peggy McLean, Kershaw County Economic Development Director, to share the vision and plans for their new building. This new building, at the Kershaw County campus near I-20, will allow CCTC (among other things) to offer additional courses in Kershaw County, such as mechatronics. Mechatronics courses teach students the necessary skills to perform basic maintenance and repair of industrial equipment with both mechanical and electrical components – skills that are important to area businesses and industry, and are needed in our heavily mechanical and technical world. Hosting these classes (and others) in Kershaw County provides a great opportunity for our residents to get the work skills training they need, right here at home.

Adult leadership programming is another important workforce development initiative. The State of South Carolina and the Columbia Chamber already have programs like this, called Leadership South Carolina and Leadership Columbia respectively. The Kershaw County Chamber would like to develop a similar program for emerging community and business leaders in our area. The main goal of such a program would be to engage young professionals to learn more about the issues facing our county and the resources available to help address these issues. This leadership program would offer in-depth learning experiences and project assignments designed to make a positive impact on our community. 

The Kershaw County Chamber is committed to workforce development initiatives. Developing dedicated employees and strong leaders of the future is necessary for local businesses and industries, and for our community to thrive. By continuing strong existing programs and by developing new innovative activities, Kershaw County can continue to develop a great workforce!

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