S.C. Statehouse Report
Nov. 23, 2003
Technical colleges can be key to economic future
SC Statehouse Report
NOV. 23, 2003 - - Take a look at South Carolina's network of technical
colleges and you'll realize something quickly: they're not just
for hands-on training for trades jobs any more. In fact if tech
colleges keep playing their cards right, they'll soon be on the
forefront of the new job revolution in the state.
the 1960's, technical colleges focused on short-term training to
give trade skills to workers so they could enter the manufacturing
and services work force. Then, like now, they provided training
in everything from mechanics and welders to cosmetologists and paralegals.
But over the last few years, technical colleges have been reshaping
their missions to morph into a new level of supporting the state's
quest for better and more jobs. These days, they're also providing
intensive multi-skill training opportunities to meet the needs of
today's and tomorrow's employers.
While the state currently is focusing a lot of economic development
activity on endowed professorships and growing research at major
universities, technical colleges have a great opportunity in the
future to help create new jobs by providing practical training for
the worker of the future, says Mary Thornley, president of Trident
Technical College in North Charleston.
"The research universities are not implementers; they research,"
she said. "The two- year colleges are the ones who need to
take the research and make it practical."
By serving as implementers, technical colleges can translate research,
which will create new business opportunities, into practical, specialized
skill sets for workers who want to learn.
Charles Gould, president of Florence-Darlington Technical College,
says his school is well on the way to being a training implementer
for the new economy.
Next month, his college will kick off the beginning of a three-phase,
320,000-square-foot, high-tech training facility that will offer
advanced manufacturing training. He said the $34 million Southeastern
Institute for Manufacturing and Technology will generate graduates
who can work in next-generation sophisticated, consumer-oriented
manufacturing facilities. New facilities will need workers to operate
millions of dollars of computer-assisted equipment and manufacturing
Gould said companies will move to South Carolina because the state
will have manufacturing workers with multiple specialized skills
for biotech, agribusiness and other industry sectors. In the long
run, employers want to ensure they have a sustainable work force
that can handle next-generation jobs.
"If we can establish a niche that we can support the training
needs for high-tech manufacturing, we will be in a very good spot,"
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Other technical colleges are busy training future skilled workers.
At Greenville Tech, there's a successful retraining program called
"Quick Jobs" that seeks to help displaced workers get
new skills in three months so they can rejoin the work force. At
Trident Tech, administrators are seeking final legislative approval
for a new $20 million facility to generate highly-skilled culinary
jobs. With the approaching loss of 1,380 students in the Charleston
area due to the closure in Charleston of Johnson & Wales University,
the technical college is gearing up for a four-year culinary arts
"People who train as professionals at technical colleges can
develop career paths," Thornley said. "That part (the
culinary industry) of our economy is not slowing down."
Federal labor statistics show 85 percent of jobs in the country
require 14 years of training - - high school and two more years,
Thornley said. And that, she added, secures the future of technical
colleges to provide new kinds of high-tech, health care and information
technology training to augment traditional industrial training.
"It's clear to us that we're still in the business of job
creation because technically-trained people can earn good salaries."
In the coming year, look for more technical colleges to push the
envelope to offer new training opportunities that run parallel with
the state's increasing emphasis on research. By universities research
and technical colleges working together, they'll deliver a one-two
punch that will make South Carolina a better, more diversified,
higher-paying place to live.
This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:
11/7: Accountability is why superintendent
To the editor:
You missed the main point of why the head of the Dept.
of Education should report to the Governor instead of the General
column). It's called Accountability. How can anyone be held
accountable for their actions when they are accountable to so many
people. By this method, you increase rather than decrease the politics
of education. Right now Ms. Tennenbaum (sic) and those before her
report to everyone and no one. Is that not a recipe for arrogance
and single mindedness. Perhaps this is why we have a Dept. of Education
that is overloaded with Bureaucrats and why so many educational
are made in Columbia and not in the Counties. Is this also the reason
that the Charter School movement, while exploding in other states,
is being thwarted here.
There is a lot more to the story that you are either being told
or understand. In the future, do a little more research. Remember,
over 60% of the state budget is for education. Is this not too much
power entrusted in ONE individual?
-- Tom Hatfield, Hilton Head Island