Greenwood Together, the county’s economic development transitional identity, unveiled recommendations Tuesday on how it should proceed with workforce development to about 35 people from government, education and community groups
The lack of participation from the county’s manufacturing leaders was not lost on Mamie Nicholson, president of the Self Family Foundation, who asked if members of the manufacturing community present would stand. None did.
“They are not here,” Nicholson said.
Barbara Ann Heegan, president and CEO of the Greenwood SC Chamber of Commerce, said manufacturing leaders were invited but the Chamber plans to host a roundtable of industry leaders to present the workforce strategic plan.
Rusty Denning, chairman of the Chamber’s board, said the workforce strategic plan was something he was waiting to see.
“These are things that we want to see in Greenwood County,” Denning said, “for the greater good of Greenwood County.”
Ted Abernathy, managing partner of Economic Leadership, identified the main workforce problem to address: “Nobody can find workers with the right amount of skill.”
At the heart of Abernathy’s presentation were several steps to increase the workforce for Greenwood County’s manufacturing industries. Through demographic and economic research as well as analysis of industries and housing, Abernathy produced a plan that he said is actionable.
“Your job numbers have been stable for the last 20 years,” Abernathy said. “Your labor force has remained stable.”
The problem lies with the skills of the workforce. Community stakeholders who were interviewed by Economic Leadership responded that life skills and work skills were the most important skills in employees.
Abernathy listed a number of site selection issues, including highway accessibility, availability of skilled labor, labor costs and quality of life. He also highlighted several top factors for location decisions of potential manufactures, including the availability of skilled workers, competitive labor costs and strong quality of life as issues for Greenwood Together to look at.
He listed three issues that challenge workforce development nationwide including lack of people in labor pool, continued mismatch between worker skills and employer needs and aligning programs that build the skills workers need.
Housing was another element of the plan.
“There is a big chunk in the report about housing,” Abernathy said.
The report found that Greenwood County has seen a 2.1% growth in the number of housing units in the past decade but is still below the state average when compared year over year.
“Greenwood’s housing stock offers great affordability, but it lacks the volume and variety of new construction necessary to attract young people and higher income families,” the report said. “Retaining and attracting additional workforce will require an aggressive housing strategy.”
The plan made a number of recommendations.
Abernathy recommended creating a strong accountable partnership to coordinate actions, expand career awareness and work experience, increase the size and depth of the talent pool and fine-tune workforce training.
As part of those recommendations, the plan calls for starting a work exposure program for eighth- and tenth-graders to have meaningful career exposure, such as connecting Greenwood Promise participants with work experience through an internship or work-study program.
It also recommended contacting developers of loft apartments or live/work properties that have been active in smaller cities across the United States.
Heegan announced two ways the Chamber plans to aid in workforce development in response to recommendations from Economic Leadership.
The Chamber will be expanding the ambassador program which pairs someone who is passionate about showcasing Greenwood with families looking to relocate to the area.
Heegan said the Chamber will also create a workforce task force to increase the economic competitiveness of Greenwood County’s workforce. The task force will be comprised of 26 representatives from faculty, administrators and students of Lander University and Piedmont Technical College, and members of area business, labor, workforce training and community-based organizations.