A “work ready” certification for nearly half of the counties in South Carolina could mean more jobs for the state.
Twenty-two of the state’s 46 counties have met specific standards for certification through the South Carolina Work Ready Communities initiative, Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill and Lt. Gov.-elect Henry McMaster announced during a press conference Thursday.
That puts South Carolina on its way to becoming the first state in the nation to be certified as a whole, they said. The state now has more certified counties than any other state in the nation.
“We’re leading the charge, and that’s exactly where we want to be,” McMaster said.
The certification gives South Carolina an edge over other states when recruiting industry, he said, comparing it to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
Each certified county has met specific workforce and education goals, such as proving it has training facilities and the capacity to train workers for specific industries, and getting buy-in from education and vocational institutions.
That is a signal to businesses being recruited by economic developers that the state has a strong workforce poised to fill jobs.
“We are picking up steam right at the time that the economy is starting to lift around the country,” McMaster said. “We need to outrun the rest of these Southeastern states because that’s where the expansion’s going to be.”
Certification is another tool in the state’s economic-development tool bag, he said. Combined with other assets — coastal and inland ports, a good climate and low taxes — the program makes the state more attractive to industries looking for sites to open new factories.
“Things are really lining up,” McMaster said.
South Carolina is far ahead in the program in part because it was one of four states chosen to be part of a Work Ready pilot program, along with Kentucky, Missouri and Oregon.
Already it has:
• Certified 66,261 workers as career ready
• 1,946 businesses supporting the initiative
• 265 job categories available for certification.
Certified counties are: Abbeville, Allendale, Anderson, Bamberg, Beaufort, Berkeley, Cherokee, Clarendon, Colleton, Dorchester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Florence, Greenwood, Laurens, Marlboro, McCormick, Newberry, Pickens, Saluda, Sumter and Williamsburg.
“Counties of all sizes are catching on to the effectiveness of the Work Ready program and realizing that certification allows each area to market itself to new and existing businesses and, ultimately, results in more jobs for South Carolinians,” Cheryl M. Stanton, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, said in a statement.