Legislation which tries to streamline workforce programs across South Carolina passed the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.
At a press conference right before the measure passed in a 106-5 vote, State Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, said the bill creates a new statewide Coordinating Council for Workforce Development that will work with various agencies and county workforce training programs to better organize jobs programs with the needs of companies.
“We’ve listened to the business community, we listened to the technical college system, we listened to the economic development folks,” White said. “And we tried to put something together.”
Gov. Nikki Haley hoped the new council will help ease some coordination problems currently hurting South Carolina’s workforce. Haley cited that there are about 124,000 people out of work in the state, but 60,000 job openings that are not being filled.
“This is us going to our businesses and saying what are the 60,000 jobs you can’t fill?” she told reporters in the press conference with White and state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman. “It is going to our technical colleges and saying we want you to partner with us to make sure that they can get skilled to get these jobs.”
The legislation would require the new council make recommendations to the state Board of Education on what basic skills and core competencies are needed for K-12 education as they relate to workforce training and education. The council, which will be part of the state Commerce Department, will also monitor the development of secondary curriculum which integrates career and technical and academic education. It also requires the council craft a 10-year comprehensive plan for workforce development.
White’s bill would also expand opportunities for high school students, allowing them to take college-level courses that count toward their diploma and a technical certificate or associate’s degree. It also provides grants to the state’s unemployed so they can train for a job offered in their area.
Only a few Republicans voted against the idea. State Rep. Jonathon Hill, R-Townville, worried it was expanding government to benefit large manufacturers at the expense of small business.
“This whole effort seems to be a big step in the direction of a centrally-planned economy,” Hill said, arguing the state would fail at trying to guess future job needs. “We cannot centrally-plan the economy of this state and hope to have a thriving economy long-term.”
The bill needs one more procedural vote, likely coming on Thursday, before it heads to the Senate.