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DUNCAN — Gov. Henry McMaster announced Wednesday a new workforce scholarship 'pilot' program to be launched at South Carolina's 16 technical colleges.

The "Worforce Scholarships for the Future" is designed to address the historic labor crisis affecting employers in all sectors of the economy, according to McMaster's office.

The scholarships will be funded with $17 million in federal Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) monies and will cover the cost of tuition and required fees at any technical college in the state. In addition, McMaster is asking the South Carolina General Assembly to allocate $124 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to the South Carolina Technical College System.

"There are a lot of jobs out there, but employees are scarce," said McMaster at the press conference. "We will put them back to work and back to work in high-paying jobs. This is a unique approach."

"Today, we invest in the people of South Carolina and afford them the opportunity through the South Carolina Technical College System," added Dr. Tim Hardee, president of the South Carolina Technical College System, which is the largest higher education sector in the state.

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There are three technical colleges in the Upstate area that could benefit from the program: Greenville Technical College, Spartanburg Community College, and Tri-County Community College.

Hardee said the manufacturing business in the Upstate needs "skilled people to be their workforce for the future."

"We will be able to tailor the program locally to different areas of the state based on demand," Hardee added. "There is a need to expand, but can't do so without having the skilled workforce."

Sara Hazzard, president and chief executive officer of South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance said at the press conference manufacturing makes up nearly 12% of the South Carolina workforce -- including big names in the Upstate such as Michelin, BMW, and fiber optic companies.

"This program will help alleviate financial barriers standing in the way of an individual and a career," said Hazzard.

Greenville Technical College President Dr. Keith Miller said there is no doubt this program will benefit Greenville County.

"We have every program and the perfect tools to roll this out and make this happen," said Miller. "I get calls from employers on a regular basis. There is a huge need across the board. The demand is truly in every area right now."

Who is eligible for the scholarships?

Any adult or recent high school graduate in the state will be eligible until the funds are exhausted. To make the workforce scholarship program run longer, McMaster requested an additional $124 million from lawmakers, which will allow the program to operate from July 1, 2022, until June 30, 2024.

Scholarship recipients, who will total approximately 15,000 people, will be required to maintain a 2.0 grade-point average and complete one of the following requirements:

  • Complete 100 hours of voluntary time to a nonprofit or public-service organization 
  • Is employed
  • Take a financial literacy course offered at the technical college

Which college programs can the funds be used for?

Scholarship funds may only be used for associate degrees or industry credentials in high-demand careers such as manufacturing, healthcare, computer science and information technology, transportation distribution and logistics, or construction.

Below are examples of the programs that would be targeted:

  • Agriculture and natural resources-Examples: forestry management, horticulture, landscape design and management, sustainable agriculture.
  • Architecture and construction-Examples: architectural design, building construction,  HVAC, plumbing, residential and commercial electrician
  • Arts and communication- Examples: graphics, digital design, and production, film production, media arts production.
  • Business, marketing, and finance-Examples: accounting, administrative support, entrepreneurship.
  • Education and human services-Examples: child care management, special education, teacher education.
  • Health sciences-Examples: emergency medical technician, nursing, medical laboratory technology, surgical technology.
  • Hospitality and tourism-Examples: culinary arts, hospitality, and tourism management.
  • Information technology-Examples: computer technology, cybersecurity, database development, network administration.
  • Law and public safety-Examples: criminal justice technology, fire science, paralegal, police pre-academy training.
  • Manufacturing-Examples: aviation and aircraft maintenance, industrial maintenance, welding.
  • Science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM)-Examples: computer engineering technology, construction engineering technology, civil engineering, engineering graphics, and design.
  • Transportation and logistics-Examples: commercial truck driving, diesel maintenance, and repair, logistics.

Earlier this year, McMaster awarded $12 million in GEER funds to the S.C Technical College System to provide short-term training programs in critical workforce areas at no cost to the individual, according to the governor's office. The funds are used to help with the costs of tuition, fees, textbooks, and materials for up to $5,000 per participant. 

These short-term training programs last up to 12 weeks in critical workforce areas and individuals can earn an industry-recognized credential or certificate in those areas. Approximately 5,000 individuals will have completed retraining programs by the end of the calendar year.

Currently, approximately 100,000 adults attend continuing education courses at the 16 state technical colleges and 50,000 attend credit-bearing courses. The Workforce Scholarships for the Future Program is anticipated to increase enrollment by 15,000.

"We are going to double down and triple down and do it better and add associate degrees," said McMaster at the press conference. "We couldn't be doing this if we didn't have the best technical college system in the world. I don't know of anywhere in the country that is running a program like this. Every time we communicate and collaborate, South Carolina wins. I am confident it's going to work."

Education and Family Issues Reporter Krys Merryman can be reached at 864.420.7111 or kmerryman@greenvillenews.com. Continue the conversation or join a new one on our Education and Family Issues in Greenville Facebook page or on Twitter @krys_merryman.

Source : https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/local/south-carolina/2021/11/03/covid-education-relief-money-could-pay-high-demand-job-training/6254382001/

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