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State offers free online courses for unemployment recipients

People in need of professional training now have access to thousands of classes and hundreds of specializations for free, as the state Department of Employment and Workforce teams up with Coursera to provide free online classes.

As the unemployment rate in the Lakelands continues to hover below 10% and first-time unemployment insurance applications remain steady, DEW is partnering with online learning platform Coursera to launch the Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative.

“They’ve made this available to states and countries as well, so it’s international,” said Heather Biance, media relations specialist with DEW. “South Carolina was happy to partner with them to give our unemployment insurance claimants free access to this platform.”

Unemployment insurance participants furloughed or laid off because of COVID-19 can get access to the free Coursera platform, which offers courses and certifications in various industries. Claimants can register through their claimant portal, and the deadline to register is Oct. 31. People who qualify can take any number of courses, but they must be completed before the end of the year.

The idea of the program, Biance said, is to add skills and certifications to your resume before the next job interview. Some classes take a couple of hours, while some certification courses can take 6-8 weeks. The most popular course in the state teaches Microsoft Excel skills for use in business, Biance said.

In Greenwood, 118 people filed for their initial claim for unemployment insurance in the week ending on Sept. 5, while 735,360 people had filed initial claims across the state since mid-March. Workforce and employment officials have been developing other programs to help highlight job opportunities, like the lifeboat jobs program.

“The concept of lifeboat jobs is basically what jobs could someone step into right now with little to no additional education or skill sets, to get them through this storm,” Biance said. “It could leverage them to get additional skill sets, or even put them on a new career path that has room for growth.”

This week, DEW is highlighting lifeboat jobs in the health care industry, but previous weeks highlighted jobs in hospitality and accommodations as well as retail. A labor market information team pores over the 45,000 job postings to find the most prevalent positions in the relevant industries, Biance said.

“These are basically the most in-demand positions statewide right now,” she said.

To explore the lifeboat jobs and other job search resources, visit or call 803-737-2400.

Through SC Works, the DEW offers a variety of resources and aids for people looking for work. There are weekly virtual job fairs, and free services and training programs available online at For people looking for more personal help, SC Works centers can provide a variety of in-person assistance.

Greenwood’s SC Works center is located at 927 E. Cambridge St., and is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Abbeville’s is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 901 W. Greenwood St., and McCormick’s is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday at 109 W. Augusta St. More information about these sites is available online at

Biance encouraged anyone needing help finding work to make an appointment at a local SC Works center, where staff can help with the job search, interview skills, resume building and more.

“There’s a lot of folks who found themselves unemployed through the pandemic that haven’t been unemployed in a long, long time,” she said. “What do I really need to include on a resume? What makes me really jump off the page? All of that, staff can help you do, and it’s completely free.”

Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter




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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As the Lakelands and the country respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has led to state and national emergency declarations, it is vital for everyone to have up-to-date information about the virus and its spread. As such, we're providing free access to all of our COVID-19 coverage, which is available on this page.

Here's the latest information on COVID-19 from health agencies and hospitals: