As South Carolina continues to attract manufacturing jobs, there are hundreds of thousands of “middle skill” jobs in the United States that are or soon will be going unfilled because of a lack of qualified workers.
According to the New York Times over the past decade or so there has been a move to reinvigorate vocational education, now re-branded as “career” and “technical” education. One of those sites is the Pickens County Career and Technology Center in Liberty.
Center Director Ken Hitchcock told South Carolina Radio Network they work with companies that need workers to fill those jobs. “We’ll start the process of matching them up with a qualified student in that particular program and we’ll put them on what we call a co-op or an apprenticeship,” Hitchcock said.
A study released last year by the University of South Carolina’s business school and the South Carolina Business Leaders Higher Education Council warned the state could face a shortage of 114,000 workers for jobs that require some level of higher education, but not necessarily college.
Other data from the National Skills Coalition found 57 percent of South Carolina’s jobs in 2012 required “middle skills,” while only 47 percent of the state’s workforce was at that skill level. The same study also predicted 53 percent of new jobs would require “middle skills.”
Pickens County also offers training in other areas besides co-ops and apprenticeships. “We also deal with construction, health science, culinary and agriculture,” Hitchcock said. “We have a wide variety of career programs for our students.”
Hitchcock said that about 60 percent of graduates go on to local technical colleges, while 15 percent head off to four-year colleges, mainly health science-related. The rest go directly into employment, aided by the industry certificates they have earned.