“…by 2030 South Carolina will have a shortfall of 44,010 workers holding two-year degrees and 70,540 workers who hold bachelor’s degrees or higher.”
A panel of South Carolina’s top business and higher education leaders, the S.C. Business Leaders Higher Education Council, has identified vital measures needed to ensure that the state has the workforce it needs to prosper.
The project, Competing Through Knowledge, seeks to ensure that the state has a workforce with the needed college graduates to meet its economic needs in the future. On Tuesday the group released its final report identifying vital goals and initiatives for the state to meet its anticipated needs through the year 2030.
These measures are intended to meet the needs identified by several research studies, including a workforce study completed by two professors at the Darla Moore School of Business at USC. The S.C. Business Leaders Higher Education Council has crafted specific goals and initiatives to get South Carolina’s workforce ready for the challenges of the future.
The report calls for South Carolina to:
- Increase the number of graduates with degrees in science, technology, math and engineering;
- Create more public-private partnerships with higher education;
- Address the need for an additional 44,000 trained health care professionals;
- Increase the financial aid for low-income and middle-class students.
The report also endorses these specific initiatives:
- Funding performance incentives for higher education institutions;
- Tuition rebates for students who pursue degrees in areas of high economic demand;
- Better online access to college-level courses and degree programs;
- Increased state funding for colleges and universities that agree to limit tuition increases;
- Allowing colleges and universities the flexibility to operate like businesses;
- Funding colleges and universities on a formula tied to the level provided by other states in our region.
Despite the many different areas of expertise and viewpoints on the board, there was a remarkable amount of agreement on what South Carolina needs to do. “There was strong alignment among the business and academic leaders on these initiatives,” said Ken Wingate, the former chair of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education and a prominent Columbia business leader. “South Carolina’s workforce challenges are clear, and the leaders on this task force came up with a targeted set of measures to address them,” said former South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges, another Columbia business leader.
“These initiatives are crafted with the needs of South Carolina’s economic future in mind,” said George Acker of Greenville, vice president for external relations for Duke Energy South Carolina and former chair of the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees. “This is a systemic plan that will get the state to the future we all want it to have.”
“We identified the need for over 110,000 more degree recipients in the next 15 years to fill workforce needs,” said Jim Morton of Greenville, the retired vice chair of Nissan North America. “It is important that business and higher education work with policymakers to develop a plan to address these critical needs.”
These ideas also received strong support from a cross-section of South Carolinians, according to a newly released poll. North Star Opinion found broad support from 500 S.C. citizens when presented with the recommended actions in the Competing Through Knowledge report. For instance, 88 percent of those responding supported increasing collaboration between private businesses and the state’s colleges and universities, while 77 percent supported steps to increase the number of students graduating in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“There certainly is a strong consensus about moving the state forward. This is an opportunity for our South Carolina to be a national leader in business-higher education collaboration and workforce development,” said David Wilkins of Greenville, former U.S. ambassador to Canada and Chair of the Clemson University Board of Trustees.
The need for South Carolina to sharpen its focus on workforce issues was defined by a detailed reported prepared for the Competing Through Knowledge project. The study projects that at current rates, the state will have a shortfall of more than 100,000 graduating students with the necessary post-high school education to be hired in 2030 if changes are not made. It was conducted by Dr. Doug Woodward and Dr. Joey Von Nessen, top research economists in the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.
Based on economic and demographic trends, Woodward and Von Nessen project that by 2030 South Carolina will have a shortfall of 44,010 workers holding two-year degrees and 70,540 workers who hold bachelor’s degrees or higher. Their study noted that postsecondary graduation is the best predictor of a state’s income levels.
The broad coalition of leaders involved in Competing Through Knowledge came together because of the continuing challenge that all agree South Carolina is facing. The report concludes that higher education is so vital to the state’s economic future that it must be treated as a priority on a par with primary education and health care.
“We all can see what needs to be done, both on higher education goals and on creating greater access,” said Dr. Fred Carter of Florence, president of Francis Marion University. “Now the state’s elected leaders need to take action to give South Carolinians the prosperous future they deserve.”
To read the group’s final report, the study on workforce needs and more on the polling results, go to http://www.competingthroughknowledge.org.