Saying she is “frustrated” by an unemployment rate in South Carolina that is one of the country’s worst, Governor Nikki Haley has ordered several changes to how the state trains jobseekers.
First is a rebranding of South Carolina’s 50 “One Stop” job centers located around the state. Any jobless workers who use the centers to receive unemployment benefits must now undergo an assessment to determine their skills set. The idea is to better train and match the workers with those companies searching for certain skilled positions.
Called “SCWorks,” it is meant to be a revamp. Those centers are run by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW).
“It shows emphasis on what we’re trying to do,” outgoing DEW executive director John Finan said, “And that’s put people back to work.”
Finan is stepping down from his position and will be replaced by Gen. (Ret.) Abraham Turner on Thursday.
Haley said her administration had worked hard to recruit companies to South Carolina– her staff has publicly announced thousands of new jobs– but they realized that was not enough.
“My frustration was, if I’m bringing all these companies in and we’re adding all these jobs, why is the unemployment rate going up?” Haley said in a Monday press conference, “When we sat down and dissected it, we saw that we actually have a lot more people getting into the workforce.”
The new “SC Works” is a rebranding of the South Carolina One Stop jobless centers around the state. The agency said it spent $468,000 in federal funds for the new campaign, which includes television ads.
“The mindset will shift away from unemployment and more towards re-employment,” DEW spokeswoman Adrienne Fairwell said.
The governor also announced changes at the state Workforce Investment Board (SWIB), which is responsible for running jobs training programs in South Carolina. The board operates under a 1998 federal law and is meant to oversee federally-funded job training programs.
However, at the time, South Carolina already had such a board that was “grandfathered in.” Finan said the new reforms will move South Carolina closer to the federal model. That means 50 percent of the board’s 31 members are now from the private sector and four state legislators will now serve on the board (instead of representatives they appoint).
Previously the board was divided as: 30 percent business and industry, 30 percent government representatives, 30 percent organized labor, and 10 percent “general public.”
Haley also named Orangeburg businessman Mikee Johnson as SWIB’s new chairman. Johnson is CEO of Cox Industries, a wood materials manufacturer. “It’s a real exciting opportunity,” Johnson said, “A lot of people said, ‘with unemployment (so high), how can you really be talking about opportunity when you see it run?’ But the fact is, it’s like inheriting a great team.
Finan said he did not believe the previous board was having problems; he just thought the governor wanted a shakeup to spur new ideas at the board. “It was just an old, grandfathered structure,” he said, “When the Governor looked at what was going on in the state, she wanted a fresh look… and she chose to restructure it.”
The new board will meet for the first time next month.