The S.C. Technical College System’s readySC program is heralded across the nation as the premier economic development training program. Established in 1961, it was the first of its kind — an economic-development incentive for industry looking to locate or expand in South Carolina.
ReadySC provided these businesses with a trained workforce. Over the years, the level and complexity of skills required by companies have changed dramatically, but the overall goal remains the same. ReadySC strives to make sure that client organizations have the right people with the right knowledge, skills and abilities in place at the right time for a quick and successful startup or expansion.
Our program works with industry to provide classroom, lab and on-the-job learning for high-tech, high-skill and high-wage jobs in advanced manufacturing.
Today’s manufacturing workers must possess a completely different skill set than that of previous generations, utilizing such technologies as 3-D printing, augmented reality and robotics on the shop floor. And they are more often required to work and communicate as a team, think critically and creatively solve problems.
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This program works to meet the recruitment and training needs of industry partners such as Boeing, Bosch, Giti Tire, GKN, Mercedes-Benz, Michelin, Toray Composites and Volvo. The genius of this program — and the core insight it offers Washington policymakers looking to scale up broader solutions for the national economy — is its flexibility and on-the-ground partnership with the industries that do the hiring and know what skills they need.
Boeing provides an excellent example. Boeing personnel worked alongside the readySC training team to develop an intensive career and technical education new-hire program. The company also advised our local technical colleges in the design and validation of more than 200 courses. In addition, Boeing worked closely with readySC in providing materials and expertise to help us create a realistic simulated work environment. After 10 weeks of work-based learning provided by readySC, trainees seamlessly transition into six weeks of specialized job-specific instruction offered by the company’s personnel. From the trainee’s perspective, it is one cohesive training program from start to finish. This unified approach can be attributed to the hand-in-glove nature of the partnership.
The result is a skilled pipeline that has placed more than 6,000 trainees in jobs at Boeing South Carolina. And Boeing is expanding its partnership into a high school program that includes an on-site registered apprenticeship. Because of the success of the readySC-Boeing partnership, Boeing South Carolina was transformed in only a few years from a relatively small supplier outpost into a cutting-edge factory that is building the most advanced wide-body airliner there is — the 787 Dreamliner.
This partnership approach is replicated across all our projects, large, small and in between. A workforce development training program only works if it is shaped to fit real jobs and if trainees coming through it are truly prepared and ready to succeed.
Companies such as Boeing with deep experience in building and sustaining a modern American workforce have strongly supported this approach.
It’s a model for the Congress as it turns to workforce issues and fulfilling the president’s promise to communities being left behind by the tidal forces of globalization, automation and trade.
A lynchpin of this effort should be the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. This bill is based on the core insights of readySC: hand-in-glove cooperation with hiring industries and resources focused on narrow, practical job skills we know are needed for the high-quality jobs that exist in the market today. Companies such as Boeing with deep experience in building and sustaining a modern American workforce have strongly supported this approach.
The legislation, co-sponsored by South Carolina’s Rep. Joe Wilson amongst others, passed the U.S. House on Thursday with overwhelming support and should now be taken up by the Senate and enacted into law.
It’s a real win as it applies to jobs. Taking a model we know has worked in states such as South Carolina and scaling it up so communities across the country can provide students highly effective career and technical education, so they can be hired into the in-demand, well-paying, high-skill jobs that America’s employers are desperate to fill.
Dr. Hardee is president of the S.C. Technical College System; contact him via readyscsupport@ sctechsystem.edu.