South Carolina's Higher Ed "con game" shortchanges students & workforce

Writing in The State newspaper, former Abbeville County State Representative Harry Stille, himself a former college professor, sounded a call for reforming higher ed in South Carolina, warning that:

For years the Legislature and universities have conned us about the value of a baccalaureate degree, when these students would have been better off in the two-year system. Our technical colleges are where the major job growth potential is.
We need to limit university admissions to students who are in the top 50 percent of each high school class, who don’t need remedial classes and who score at least 910 on the SAT or 19 on the ACT. And we should send the rest of the students to the two-year system, where they, and we, will get their money’s worth.

I couldn't agree more. I've dealt with the issues of education and workforce, both as a career human resources professional and as a six-year member of the Charleston-area Workforce Investment Board, and have found that some of the most critical workforce shortages that we're faced with in South Carolina - as well as much of the rest of the South - is among those trades which require one to two years of technical education to enter.

Nurses, welders, computer and engineering techs are all high in demand among those employers who are already in South Carolina - and their shortages are a major reason why other companies don't come to South Carolina. Over the years, I've struggled to find people to fill skilled positions and seen those with those skills getting older, warning that people with those skills will become increasingly harder to find. But at the same time, our workforce sees a growing number of unskilled workers and college drop-outs who have no usable skills or degrees with which to get a job.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out something is wrong with this picture.

As other areas have seen firsthand, you don't need to put money into incentives when you have a quality workforce. Not only that, but since the state's technical colleges offer a no-frills, practical education for far less than the cost of a four-year institution, shifting students to the two-year track would save money on that end as well.

It's a point of view which has long been held by State Education Superintendent Mick Zais. Zais has expressed concern that “we have a culture that does not respect the trades as much as it should" and supported a greater emphasis on business partnerships that would help promote a greater emphasis upon technical education.

Stille sees what many of us see in the realm of employment, training and workforce and he knows it's time for a change. The question now is when will these concerns be taken more seriously?

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